Is Fantasy Football Stressing You Out?

Learn the warning signs of when you might be overdoing it

A football, computer keyboard, pencil and paper are symbols of fantasy football.

Learn the warning signs of when you might be overdoing it

​​We all have our hobbies that help us maintain a work-life balance. Over the years, one hobby that has soared in popularity is fantasy sports. The most popular one is fantasy football.

Millions of people play in fantasy football leagues, where fans draft football players from across the National Football League (NFL) to play on their virtual team against others. It is supposed to be a fun platform, where people can stay socially active, engage in friendly competition and make football games more interesting to watch or follow.

But while it is a welcome distraction, fantasy football can be too much of a good thing at times. It can also be stressful, especially if you worry too much about winning or not losing.

“The intent of activities like fantasy football is to provide a shared, interactive friendly competition,” says Jerry Gold, PhD, administrative director of behavioral health at Scripps. “It can become a problem when it becomes seriously competitive and competes with work and other day-to-day activities and begins to affect relationships with your spouse and others.”

Many leagues have money tied into them too. The financial component can create additional stress, especially with the unpredictability of the NFL season and fantasy football players, who are real players and very human. Some perform well. Others under perform or may even get hurt during the long season.

Fantasy sports meant for fun, not obsession

So how do you know if you’re taking fantasy football too seriously? It happens when fantasy games becomes less of a hobby and more of an obsession that affects your mental health.

Dr. Gold says you can look for similar signs and symptoms to other addictive behaviors, such as an internet addiction or addiction to your mobile device. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Depression

Heightened levels of stress can also begin to take a toll physically. Headaches, insomnia or weight gain/loss are just a few of the symptoms you might experience.

“When it consumes you and you get angry, it becomes a problem just like any other addictive behavior,” Dr. Gold notes. “Fantasy football is designed for entertainment purposes. There’s nothing wrong with playing to win but be aware of how much time and energy you’re devoting to it.