How Royce White Will Overcome Anxiety to Succeed in the NBA

Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 21:  Royce White #30 of the Houston Rockets poses for a portrait during the 2012 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot at the MSG Training Center on August 21, 2012 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Royce White has an anxiety disorder which is reportedly keeping him from training camp, according to Fox News Houston, which quotes him as saying, 

We are trying to figure out a plan for me to be healthy and successful long-term. It's not really anything that's going on right now. It's more of trying to take a pro-active approach and trying to put together a solid plan.

It is definitely linked with my anxiety sure, but it's not so much as far as my anxiety now. Basically what happened was my doctor, we discussed it, and it was decided the way the plan was now just wasn't logistically healthy.

So what can we do strategically to try and improve the chances of everybody being successful in this situation, my success and the Rockets success? If I fail then that's not good for them either, because it's an investment.

Precisely what that means is a bit difficult to discern, but it's clear that it is related to his generalized anxiety disorder, which also includes a fear of flying that will cause him to travel to games via bus at times, according to the Houston Chronicle's Ultimate Rockets blog:

White has battled Generalized Anxiety Disorder in which concerns about an issue, such as his fear of flying, can often spread to a more general and increasing anxiety on unrelated matters. He has suffered from panic attacks and obsessive compulsive tendencies. Uncertainty can lead to dramatic increases in symptoms but in each case, he can treat the disorder by heading off anxiety.

White said he will supply the bus he will use for much of the season’s travel, calling overnight trips of up to nine hours “no problem at all.”

Here is WebMD's definition of generalized anxiety disorder:

Generalized anxiety disorder occurs when you feel worried and stressed about many everyday events and activities. Often the things you are worried about are small or not important. This type of worry disrupts your life most days. Everyone gets worried or anxious sometimes. But people with generalized anxiety disorder experience more than normal everyday worries.

It may seem easy to wonder what a person who is in the NBA has to be anxious about, but consider this: If your "everyday events and activities" are often performed in front of thousands of people in an arena and millions more watching on TV, any inclination to get worried about things could certainly disrupt your life.

It's also important to not think of this as something that "normal" people go through. Everyone feels anxiety, but that doesn't mean everyone feels anxiety at the same level. Phobias aren't normal fears. 

One recourse that White can utilize is his doctors and any medications they might prescribe, but there are some other athletes who have gone on to have enormous success after being diagnosed with GAD whose counsel he could seek out as well. 

Ricky Williams was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a somewhat similar affliction, in 2001. He recounts his history this way

I was 23, a millionaire and had everything, yet I was never more unhappy in my life. I felt extremely isolated from my friends and family because I couldn't explain to them what I was feeling. I had no idea what was wrong with me.

Williams, after seeing a therapist and getting medication, had a drastic improvement the following year in Miami. It was, in fact, the best year of his career as he led the league in rushing in 2002, gaining 1,852 yards on the ground to go with 16 touchdowns. He added another 352 yards receiving and one TD receiving. 

Williams continued to have struggles, but seemed to have finally found peace with who he is and what stardom brings. 

Olympic gold-medalist Susie O'Neill had SAD to such an extent that she was even afraid of winning, because it meant she would have to stand on the podium. She overcame her anxiety to medal in every international event she ever competed in though. 

Finally, and most recently, Zack Greinke overcame it to achieve remarkable success including a Cy Young Award. 

According to, Greinke had to take seven months away from the game to deal with his SAD and depression.

Two years later he had a 16-8 record with a horrible Kansas City Royals team and led the American League in wins above replacement, earned run average, walks and hits per inning pitched, as well as in numerous other advanced statistical categories. 

White may be in for a difficult situation, but he can turn to and learn from some of his peer athletes who have overcome the same adversity to achieve remarkable success. 

Myron Medcalf of writes a compelling piece about the struggles that White has and the skill set he will be able to use if he can overcome his anxiety. He can play anything from the point guard to the power forward position in the NBA. 

He has tremendous ball-handling skills for a 6'8", 270-pound player. There is a very high ceiling for him if he can learn to not fear it. Fans of the Houston Rockets, underdogs and humanity in general should be cheering for him to reach it. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story identified White's disorder as social anxiety disorder instead of generalized anxiety disorder. Click here to read more about the differences between the two disorders.