At the end of the Sochi 2014 Olympic games, several media outlets around the world reported on the phenomenon known as Olympic withdrawal.
Its apparent symptoms can range from sadness, anxiety, and a lack of motivation which can supposedly plague both fans and athletes after the closing of an Olympic games.
However, according to SFU professor Dr. David Cox, who has been a clinical psychologist for multiple Canadian Olympic delegations and has attended several Olympics as part of the support staff, this phenomenon shouldn’t be labeled as a withdrawal because of the negative connotations attached to that term.
Instead, he argues that it should be understood as a “post-Olympic experience” that athletes go through in which they take time to reflect on the intense physical and emotional Olympic games. In fact, Cox states that for many athletes, this time of reflection usually involves reminiscing about positive memories from their Olympic participation.
Cox compares athletes’ post-Olympic experience to that of graduating university students since both groups worked hard for four years in order to achieve a goal. He adds that for a number of athletes, just like convocating students, this time of reflection also involves making decisions about the future.
In the case of athletes, the decision is whether or not to continue to train and compete for future Olympics.
This process can be more intense for athletes of certain sports that run on a quadrennial system and have an age limit due to physical requirements, thereby leaving competitors to decide if, at their age, they should attempt to train for another four years.
Cox insists athletes should take a well-deserved break from intense training after their Olympic experience and not make quick decisions about their futures; he recommends the same for coaches and support staff.
And for the fans that may be missing the enthusiasm, motivation, and unity that the Olympics create, Cox says all is not lost at the Closing Ceremonies.
“Watch the Paralympic games,” he says, as they offer another two weeks of national pride with athletes just as talented as those in the previous games.