Post Olympic Stress Disorder: The Dark Side of Going for the Gold

By Two Time Olympian (’04 &’08) Taraje Williams-Murray and 2004 Olympian Rhadi Ferguson

Post Olympic Stress Disorder?

You’re probably asking yourself if such a disorder even exists, or if we’re just trying to be funny.

Take it from us: it most certainly does, I don’t think you’ll find any mention in the latest medical and psychological journals! And it can strike in a number of different ways and places.

If you’re a serious athlete, there’s no greater or loftier goal than landing a spot on the Olympic roster. The desire to transform your dreams into reality is a force to be reckoned with. It becomes an addiction – an undeniable need… And, just like an addiction, that need doesn’t just magically disappear – even after the medals have been won and everyone heads back home to pickup the pieces and move on…

Because even when it’s over, it’s not REALLY over!

We’ve been there, and we’re here to clue you in on a little secret: it happens to everyone!

It happens to the “Hopefuls” out there, with the drive and desire, and sometimes little else to go on. It happens to the Hopefuls that suddenly find themselves Olympians. Some of those will go on to become contenders, others merely pretenders.

And – believe it or not – it happens to the big winners, too!

When you really think about it, it makes sense…

Think of the training – the YEARS of grueling mental, physical and emotional demands an Olympian puts themselves through.

Hours upon hours upon hours of learning your limits and then plowing through and past them to new and greater heights…

Days, weeks, months spent with coaches, pried away from husbands, wives, parents, children and friends…

The financial demands of the training and traveling, and time spent away from your “real” job…

And like other forms of stress disorders out there, there’s no “right” time for the distress and depression to set in.

Before you can make it to the Olympics, you’ve got to make the cut in the trials. If you wash out in the trials, the depression typically sets in IMMEDIATELY!

But, if you WIN the Olympic Trials, that’s when the REAL roller coaster ride begins…

The pride of achievement, the culmination, the heightened expectations… you’re on top of the world!

It’s hard to imagine anything better. You’re unstoppable, unbeatable – damn near supernatural.

And, just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any better (seeing yourself on the News, hearing your name on the radio, the cheers, the support, the superhero status…), the opening ceremonies commence!

Until this point, you only THOUGHT you were addicted. From here on out, you’re a bonafide JUNKIE!

Take it from us – there’s nothing else like it. You think sex is great? You think gambling (and winning) is great? Driving in fast cars? Skydiving?

None of that can light a candle to the thrill of that torch, to the sense of fate, destiny – being a part of something so BIG, universal. You are on stage and the WHOLE world is watching YOU!

The only thing better is the weight of a gold medal hanging around your neck as the crowd goes wild.

But the higher you make it, the harder the fall…

Mind you, not everyone leaves with a medal, actually the MAJORITY – of us walk away empty-handed.

And at some point, the pain sets in. It may set in as soon as the competition is over, from the minute you start your mental instant replay and begin berating what you did and didn’t do. Or, you may feel find for weeks or months before it happens…

“Is this it?”

“I put myself through hell and raised the stakes as high as I humanly could, and this is my reward?!”

Everything seems sickeningly mundane. Ordinary life is a LOT different than viewing the world from the lofty vantage point of “Mount Olympics”. Back out here in the real world, NOTHING feels like it can ever “go back to normal.”

Relationships are affected…

Finances feel the pinch…

Careers (both “professional” and athletic) can suffer…

While post Olympic stress disorder sounds cute, even colloquial, the reality is that it’s anything BUT!

I am there now, Rhadi’s been there… Across history, multitudes of us have!

Looking back, POSD is a given… Interview Michael Phelps in a few and even he’ll have his own story to share…

It’s what you do NEXT that separates the wheat from the chaff, the champs from the chumps.

You’ve got to ask yourself a big question, with an even bigger answer –

“Where will you go from here?”

About the Authors

2008 and 2004 Olympian Taraje Williams-Murray is in the process of writing a book about the Post Olympic Effect, Post Olympic Depression and its effect on him personally through his experiences and his observed effect on other athletes. Taraje owns and operates a highly successful blog at and has produced the highly heralded DVD “Beyond The Rings” ( which outlines, illustrates, illuminates and provides others with the inside scoop of what it is actually like to train and make an Olympic Team. If you have any questions or if you would like to book Taraje for a clinic, seminar or speaking engagement please contact him at

Beyond The Rings

Beyond The Rings

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