Did US Olympics Legend Michael Phelps Struggle With Depression? Everything You Need to Know

Published 01/03/2022, 2:30 PM EST
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 06: Former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps speaks during a Panasonic press event for CES 2020 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 6, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs January 7-10 and features about 4,500 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 170,000 attendees. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)


Despite winning 23 gold medals, 28 Olympic Medals, and other world records, Michael Phelps fell victim to depression. When people open up about achieving things becoming the main cure of depression, Phelps had an uncommon experience altogether. He opened up on the mental health struggles that came up to him after every Olympics. Hence, Phelps now is an advocate for depression as his foundation is doing well to curb people from going down.

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Back in 2018, Phelps spoke about being depressed after every Olympic Games as he could not handle the pressures and expectations of the sporting world. Thus, talking to people helped him as he revealed in different interviews.

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What happened to Michael Phelps?

After years of struggling with mental health issues, he is now one of the most influential personalities in helping people understand how it is okay, to be not okay. Putting hard work and commitment to his sport is something that he practiced regularly. Simply because he wanted to win every single time. However, he revealed how he would be depressed after the Olympics while noticing the pattern every single time, thereafter.

“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression. I would say ’04 was probably the first depression spell I went through,” said Phelps.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 14: Michael Phelps of the United States wipes his eyes during a press conference at the Main Press Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

He talked about using different unethical methods to figure out the problem but could never contemplate the issues he really had. Being caught in a lot of controversies, Phelps talked about the entire problem imploding back in 2012. The legendary swimmer sat inside his room for several days while not able to get out of his cocoon.

“The “hardest fall” was after the 2012 Olympics. I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore … I didn’t want to be alive anymore. What that “all-time low” looked like was Phelps sitting alone for “three to five days” in his bedroom, not eating, barely sleeping and “just not wanting to be alive,” said Phelps.
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What does Michael Phelps talk about depression? Is he really depressed?

The incredible swimmer talked about being depressed while affecting his family life. He talked about wanting to be himself while not talking to anyone for ages. Hence, he added how his wife Nicole helped him to overcome the mental health issues. By listening to his problems, Nicole offered the support that everyone needs during trepid times.
“Nicole loves me and wants to help. She wants me to get better. But she’s also struggling herself. She needs that support as well. I know it’s hard for her,” said Nicole.
BOSTON, MA – MAY 21: Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, stands with his wife Nicole Johnson before receiving the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston on May 21, 2019. (Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
With the consistent bonding they had, Phelps spoke about being closer with Nicole while doing different activities together. Opening up to his kids was tougher for him. For sure, because they are too young to understand the magnitude of the problems. Hence, Phelps talked about speaking to kids when he had an off day.
“They understand there are times when I need a break, where I say, ‘You know, Daddy’s having a hard day,’ or ‘Daddy’s not feeling good. It’s showing that it’s OK to NOT be OK. Mental health is something that’s so important in our family,” said Phelps.

Supporting Simone Biles

Currently, the legendary athlete is happy and helping people realize the problems related to depression. Recently, famous gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from team gymnastics competitions at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as she could not handle the pressures of the competition. She became an advocate for most athletes who face similar issues. Thus, her stance was widely appreciated including Phelps, who loved her approach to depression.

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“We’re human beings, nobody is perfect. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to go through ups and downs and emotional roller coasters … I felt like I was carrying, as Simone (Biles) said, the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s a tough situation,” said Phelps.

TOKYO, JAPAN – AUGUST 03: Simone Biles of Team United States reacts before the Women’s Balance Beam Final at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images)

After he struggled with mental health issues, Phelps started the Michael Phelps Foundation to help people live a healthy life through different activities. They have reached over 100,000 people while providing financial needs for swimmers.

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A truly blessed individual, Phelps continues to defy the odds, even though, he is retired. As he said, it is okay not to be okay. Depression is not taboo as Phelps gave a clear understanding of what he went through.

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Jacob Gijy

833 articles

Jacob Gijy is a US Sports and NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Gijy finished his Masters in Counselling Psychology and worked in a hospital for 2 years before his passion for sports compelled him to find his way to sports journalism. A fan of the great Tim Duncan, he is always ready to pick up a debate with anyone who does not offer the center the respect he deserves.

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