Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Calling All Armchair Psychiatrists

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IOctober 21, 2009

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 15:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 15, 2009 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It is no secret that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has had a miserable 2009 season so far.  While Junior watches his three Hendrick teammates lead the points race, he languishes in the 22nd position in the points standings. 

Junior's teammates have eleven wins amongst the three of them.  Junior has no win yet this season.

Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin, Junior's Hendrick peers, lead laps almost every race.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has led a lap only twice in the past 21 races.

This past week, Junior's frustrations spilled over and he shared it with the world. 

"There comes a point where you don't want to ride it out no more," Earnhardt said. "So you just have had enough. It's been a long year."

"It's like really encouraging one day and the next day it's equally discouraging," Earnhardt, Jr. continued.  "That gets really old."

"I'm about to the end of my rope on it."

These stark, candid and honest remarks from NASCAR's most popular driver have many fans and supporters alike wondering about the state of Junior's mental health. 

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And that has brought out the many armchair psychiatrists to speculate on possible diagnoses, as well as treatments might be needed to make Junior whole.

Arm Chair Psychiatrist's First Potential Diagnosis:  Major Depressive Disorder DSM IV Code 296.2x.  Many arm chair psychiatrists think that Junior is just depressed.  And of course Junior's comment "I'm about to the end of my rope" just seemed to highlight how down in the dumps this driver really is. 

One of the other characteristics of a major depressive disorder is the feeling that one is out of control.  Again, Junior's comments mirror this sentiment.

"Yeah, I feel like I don't have any control, you know," Earnhardt said.  "We're just not getting it done."

"I don't know what to do."

Arm Chair Psychiatrist's Second Potential Diagnosis:  Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM IV Code 300.02.  Another potential diagnosis may be that Junior is just plain anxious.

The driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy Chevy admits that he is frustrated, as well as dreading his life in the garage area.  Again, Junior's comments seem to verify this potential diagnosis.

"It's not a very fun place," Junior said of the Cup garage.  "It takes a lot to be here. It's really, really ... for anybody to work in it around this garage it's really frustrating and really hard."

Arm Chair Psychiatrist's Third Potential Diagnosis:  Adjustment Disorder DSM IV Code 309.9.  One of Junior's biggest issues seems to be his lack of adjustment to his new crew chief Lance McGrew. 

While Junior enjoys being with McGrew, he seems unsure if his crew chief has what it takes to reign in NASCAR Nation's most famous legacy driver.

"If I told you that I wanted to be with Lance next year I wouldn't be telling you that out of my knowledge of expertise and talent," Junior said.  "I'd be telling because it's fun hanging out with him."

"Hell, you don't even know if Lance wants to do it," Junior said of McGrew's willingness to continue on as his crew chief.  "Hell, I wouldn't want it. It's a tough job."

Arm Chair Psychiatrist's Fourth Potential Diagnosis:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder DSM Code 309.81.  Many arm chair pyschiatrists still speculate that Junior has not recovered from the loss of his father, which haunts him.

While Junior seems to try to resist the "Oh, I lost my Daddy, woe is me," mentality, he still seems to be grieving his loss. 

"When my dad died, I was numb, blind," Junior said.  "I just kept moving. Going. Doing.  It was horrible."

Junior has acknowledged Senior's death as a major loss in his life.  "The further away from it I get, the more I understand how I went through it," Junior said wistfully.

Other arm chair psychiatrists, while unwilling to make a "diagnosis" have also weighed in on his malaise.  Many have stated that they believe Junior may just feel too much pressure, trying to live up to his namesake. 

Others feel that Junior may have a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder, attending to the many demands in his life, from his music and his Whiskey River bar to his many charitable activities. 

Plus, Junior is a young man, although he just turned 35 years old, who seems to just want to have fun.

Regardless of the "diagnosis", the "treatment" scenarios are even more varied. 

Some of the arm chair psychiatrists feel certain that Junior is in need of some serious counseling, if not some good medication.

Others feel that he just needs to focus. 

Others recommend that Junior should eliminate all other distractions in his life and just focus on his racing.

There is no doubt that Junior is in pain.  And he even seems to be "crying out for help", as per his most recent soul-baring comments.

But the next step for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is most certainly in his own hands.  He must decide if indeed he has a problem and how he will help himself.

After all, every arm chair psychiatrist will acknowledge that the "patient" must hit bottom and be willing to change.  Is Junior at that point?

Only Dale Earnhardt, Jr. can answer that question.

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