We all have hobbies that help us balance work and life. One popular hobby is fantasy sports, played online and sometimes for money. Fantasy football is the most popular version.
Fantasy football, which closely follows the National Football League (NFL) season, can be fun but it can also be stressful.
Fantasy football is a fun way to connect, compete with friends, 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 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.”
Millions of men and women play fantasy football. Anyone can play but most are football fans.
In most fantasy leagues, players choose real NFL players to make their team and play against other league members every week. Fantasy games are decided by points earned through various game statistics, including touchdowns, rushing yards and catches.
You can play fantasy football for free or for money. The money part can cause stress because the NFL season is unpredictable. NFL players have ups and downs. Some do well, while others do not or get injured during the long season.
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:
- Mood swings
- Feelings of guilt
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.
Fantasy football should be something you enjoy playing and not a source of stress or pressure.
“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.”