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Afraid of being scared: The struggle of Royce White

By | November 19, 2012 | Sports

Imagine something for just a minute. You’re scared of everything: interacting with people, walking on the street, flying on an airplane.

This fear grips you on a daily basis, affecting how you work with others and your view of the world. And this fear scares you even more because you don’t know how to cure yourself. This fear is called, Social Anxiety Disorder, and it is at the center of a conflict between a talented basketball player and the team that drafted him.

This is the struggle of Royce White, a talented and scared rookie in the NBA who is involved in a bitter dispute with the Houston Rockets over accommodations that were purportedly made for him coming out of college.

The Rockets drafted White in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft out of Iowa State, where he was an All-Big 12 Conference selection. Before that, he played at the University of Minnesota. He was also a high school legend in that state.

Before reaching the NBA, White made headlines for all the wrong reasons. At least, that’s what many others thought. As it turns out, all the disciplinary problems he encountered weren’t for carousing on the town with the wrong crowd or getting in to fisticuffs at a nightclub. They were due to his anxiety disorder.

And just like in college, White’s disorder has drawn criticism for all the wrong reasons. The Rockets claim they’ve done everything they can to help him treat his illness. They claim they’ve arranged for White to be treated by a doctor at Baylor University, but neither the Rockets nor the doctor claim he’s shown up for any kind of treatment. Another issue is travel. White is so scared of flying that he refuses to attend any road games unless the Rockets allow him to drive.

White’s problems have now escalated to the point where he has not appeared in any games or practices for the Rockets this year. As a result, the organization has now started to fine him for past and future games missed. In an interview with ESPN.com, White claims the Rockets issues deal more with “support” rather than anxiety.

White’s problems with this difficult and scary illness highlight just some of the larger issues in society when it comes to dealing with anxiety disorders. Among the crowds of everyday people, Social Anxiety Disorder still lingers in the realm of the great unknown. But when it pops up in the world of sports, the issue all of a sudden becomes magnified.

Many pro careers have been put on hold or crashed into oblivion because of Social Anxiety Disorder. Current Los Angeles Angels pitcher Zach Greinke took nearly a year off baseball because of his struggles with social anxiety; and Dontrelle Willis, who’s smile is just as infectious as his problems with anxiety, has struggled to stay in baseball due to his issues. Then, there’s former NFL star Ricky Williams, who dealt with his problems by smoking marijuana and teaching holistic medicine somewhere in Grass Valley.

As for White, he is still trying to find his way in a world that doesn’t truly comprehend what he deals with every day. Just like his fellow athletes, his greatest struggle is convincing people that even million-dollar athletes are not immune from the same mental problems as everyone else.

No one is really sure how the White versus Rockets saga will end. Many are saying the Rockets need to do more to help him. Then again, others are saying White is being too selfish with his demands. Selfish or not, White needs some help.

This is what it’s like living scared every day.

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