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Sports Fans: It's Not Just A Game

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When it comes to rooting for sports teams, getting caught up in the emotion of the game is normal.

But during big games, some fans can go too far with obnoxious and emotionally unhealthy behavior.

"When I was in college one of my friends that is from the Cleveland area, we were watching the game and he got so mad that he punched a hole in the wall of the apartment he was living in," said Ryan Arledge, football fan.

This sort of behavior isn't uncommon when it comes to sports.

Sports fans have strong ties to their teams. It doesn't matter if they win or lose. Fans are going to take it personally.

"People are profoundly connected to their sports in particular when they have the home team for example. People emphasize them so much with these sports characters that they actually project themselves on the field and into their players," said Dr. James Abel, Fairmont General Hospital.

And that's not all they do. They feel the need to defend their team through thick and thin.

"We don't just watch sports passively and appreciate them for their harmony and grace," Dr. Abel said. "In a sense, they represent us and we put ourselves into them to where we are experiencing these emotions as if we were the players."

Studies show that sports fans have both a psychological and a physical response to what's happening to their team during and after a game.

"If people actually win, its actually shown they are more optimistic about themselves and life and their self-esteem goes up," Dr. Abel said. "Conversely, if your team loses your self esteem goes down and it can ruin your entire week for example."

Professionals said it's important to know the signs of getting too emotionally involved in a game so you can avoid any behavior you may later regret.

"When it comes to sports there's this group mentality that its us versus them. I think its important to realize this isn't an actual war. I think its also important to be careful of alcohol use. Alcohol use perpetuates all of these things," Dr. Abel said.

Doctor Ken Yeager, a mental health expert in the department of psychiatry at The Ohio State University, released the following tips for fans.

  • Don't drink too much. Alcohol is a depressant, and if things don't go well, it can make you feel even more agitated and upset.
  • Don't bet on your team.
  • Don't ignore the warning signs. Our bodies give us very strong signals when we are getting emotionally agitated, such as feeling nervous, sweating or feeling the need to lash out.
  • Control the volume of the TV. Overstimulation can quickly increase agitation.
  • Go to the gym before the game and work out. Exercise reduces stress and can help you better cope if things don't go well for your team.
  • If you are easily tempted to overreact, avoid those who do, too.