01/07/2013 06:10 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2013

Royce White Anxiety Disorder: Houston Rocket Suspended Amid Dispute Over Mental Illness. What Is It?

Houston Rockets' officials announced Sunday that the organization would be suspending rookie Royce White amid ongoing debate over how to best address his anxiety disorder and overall mental health during the NBA season.

According to the Mayo Clinic, White's condition, identified as generalized anxiety disorder, is characterized by ongoing anxiety that interferes with day-to-day activities. It affects some 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over in a given year.

Though different from panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder does share similar symptoms, including constant worrying or obsession about small or large concerns; restlessness and feeling keyed up or on edge; fatigue; difficulty concentrating or your mind "going blank;" irritability; muscle tension or muscle aches; trembling, feeling twitchy or being easily startled; trouble sleeping; sweating, nausea or diarrhea; and shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat, Mayo Clinic explains.

White's suspension comes on the heels of rising concern about mental health among athletes and black men.

Mental health has a stigma that is tied into weakness and is absolutely the antithesis of what athletes want to portray,” Dr. Thelma Dye Holmes, executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, told the New York Times last year.

Others say that similar stigmas are what's keeping the issue from being addressed in the black community as well.

"Many African-Americans have a lot of negative feelings about, or not even aware of mental health services. They may not be aware of the symptoms of many mental disorders, or they may believe that to be mentally ill is a sign of weakness or a sign of a character fault," said Dr. William Lawson, a professor and chairman of psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine, in a discussion with NPR.

Overlap between the two groups -- including the suicides of San Diego Chargers' Junior Seau and the Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher -- have prompted officials to prioritize mental health screening among athletes. (Though some have questioned how effective the safety really is.)

White stopped participating in team activities in October, saying his mental health took precedence over his NBA career, the Associated Press reports.

"Just knowing what I know about anxiety and mental health, there is a side of my mind that can't look away from the fact that I do think about it every day. I wake up (and think), 'Am I cut out for this?'" White said in a phone interview with CNN, noting plans to roll out a campaign that raises awareness about mental illness and helps to destigmatize it.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are treatable, and the vast majority of people who suffer from them can be helped with professional care. Treatments include medications such as antidepressants and sedatives for short-term relief, and psychotherapy, which aims to tackle underlying life stresses and prompt behavior changes that may offer relief.



Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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