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'I didn't want to be alive' - Michael Phelps opens up about battling anxiety, depression

“After every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” the 32-year-old Phelps said.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

SWIMMING GREAT Michael Phelps revealed that he has battled severe anxiety and depression for much of his life which drove him to consider suicide after his success at the 2012 Olympics.

Speaking at a mental health conference in Chicago this week, the 23-time Olympic gold medal winner talked openly about his long battle with crippling depression and is encouraging others to get help like he did.

“After every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” the 32-year-old said.

Phelps said he reached rock bottom following the 2012 Olympics in London where he won four gold medals and two silver. For four days he remained in his room without food or sleep.

“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore,” he said. “I didn’t want to be alive.”

When he hit a low point in his depression, Phelps said, “You do contemplate suicide.”

Over the past two years Phelps has opened up about his struggles. Once again, Phelps said his depression and anxiety problems have been a staple of his life for the past 17 years.

“We’re supposed to be this big, macho, physically strong human beings, but this is not a weakness,” he said. “We are seeking and reaching for help.”

Phelps won his first gold medal in 2004 at the Athens Olympic Games. That same year the 15-year-old from Baltimore experienced his first “depression spell”.

Phelps said as he got older his depression led to his abusing drugs and alcohol.

In 2008, after winning a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, Phelps was photographed smoking from a bong. He has also been arrested twice for drink driving.

“It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from,” he said.

© AFP 2018

If you need to talk, please contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s) 

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