NBA Star Kevin Love And Overcoming Depression And Anxiety
Anyone can develop depression, but when that person is a celebrity he often chooses to share the battle publicly in hopes of helping other people. Kevin Love, five-time All-Star and NBA championship member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a great example of this. Love’s experience with depression affected him for the first nine years of his NBA career and it wasn’t until a panic attack that drove him to therapy that he realized he was dealing with a mental illness.
Love has shared his experience with depression in an effort to help others who are also struggling with mental health issues. He says that because of his experience he’s able to recognize when younger NBA players are struggling.
“I had terrible habits…”
Love also takes a lot of responsibility for his inability to manage his depression in the past: “I had terrible habits. Not even just on the floor but off. I’d eat poorly. I’d stress eat. I’d eat when I had anxiety, which was really bad. I mean that’s why I was essentially bigger. And you connect the dots looking back, as far my depression goes. I wasn’t battling that at all; I was just letting myself go into a hole for two, four, six, eight weeks at a time and wouldn’t take myself out until that other Kevin — which is like the Good Kevin [who] allows himself to see different things and see the world — is there. But it’s a vicious cycle, especially when you don’t see past those blinders that are on.”
Love acknowledges that as his career winds down – he’s now 31 which is late in a professional basketball career – he’s able to step back and have perspective on things. Even without any guarantees about his future and where he’ll be playing, he’s able to manage his mental health better than when he was younger.
Love also sees a connection between his performance on the court and the work he’s put into his mental health. He says his therapy has done a lot for his game and he’s able to gain perspective on things. He says therapy has changed his relationship with his anxiety and his depression, as well as his relationships. He’s working on work-life balance, which can go a long way in preventing and/or managing mental illness.
Escape from Depression and Anxiety are Not a Cure
According to mental health experts, men sometimes use work as an escape from their emotions. Escapism can be a major indicator that a man is dealing with depression and an obsession with work helps to mask mental illness.
Love has learned this doesn’t work, even if he still loves basketball and calls the game his life. He gives himself mental breaks and steps away from the game, which ultimately helps him perform better. He also realizes that when he goes through down streaks, as most athletes do, he needs to have other things in life to sustain him. Says Love, “If I’m in the season and it’s just basketball, if that’s going bad, then what else do I have? There’s only so many movies and TV shows and books in the world. You have to have other things that you’re into.”
Love has turned to activities related to philanthropy and advocacy and his goal is to help people understand that athletes aren’t superheroes – they are humans who struggle with the same challenges as anyone else, especially mental health.
In 2018, Love launched the Kevin Love Fund on World Mental Health Awareness Day and is working with Headspace, an app that offers tools for meditation and stress relief. He has regularly spoken of his experience with mental health and believes that being an advocate for mental health is his life’s work.
Love shares that his mental health management plan includes medication, meditation, and a focus on proper nutrition and sleep.
Mental health experts say a multi-pronged approach to treatment is often the best. Kathi Fairbend, MS, RPT, considered by many to be America’s leading physical therapist and author of Stand Up to Depression, a new book that offers hope to the millions who suffer from depression, agrees. She believes depression can be relieved, at least in part, through physical movement hat coaxes the body into proper alignment.
Fairbend explains how important movement can be in relieving the symptoms of depression, especially when used in combination with other treatments. “We have accepted that there is a mind-body connection—that the mind can influence physical health,” Fairbend said. “But data also prove a body-mind connection. If one’s posture is consistent with confidence and positivity, that message from musculature is relayed to the brain, and can result in very significant improvements in mood.”
The best thing anyone can if they believe they are dealing with depression is to reach out for help. Your doctor can help you rule out any biological causes of depression and a mental health expert can help you create a comprehensive plan for managing depression.
It might be difficult or challenging to take that first step when you’re feeling your worst, but Love hopes that his story will encourage anyone like him to make a move.