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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dubious Diagnosis: Does Kahlil Greene Really Have a Social Anxiety Disorder?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 3:30 PM

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  • flickr.com/photos/adohnes
"It's not like catching the chickenpox. There has to be a history."

So says Dr. Allan Lans regarding social anxiety disorder and this season's toll of ballplayers said to be suffering from it, a list that includes St. Louis' introspective shortstop Khalil Greene and Detroit's flamboyant hurler Dontrelle Willis.

A New York psychiatrist with a long history of working on the psyches of professional athletes -- most notably as a member of the Mets' staff -- Lans tells the New York Times that he's "very suspicious of that diagnosis." Lans is not disputing that social anxiety is a real illness, but he says the ailment is being overdiagnosed.

Wary of the burgeoning number of social anxiety disorder diagnoses, Lans volunteers some rather provocative comments.

"What happens in baseball is that players, day after day, are performing in front of varying size crowds. At a certain point, they blank out all that stuff and concentrate on their jobs. Repeated exposure is the most successful treatments. So for a guy who has been in the public eye to suddenly have social anxiety disorder is a little off the wall, in my book."

There's more:

"In baseball, you don't hit most of the time and you make errors some of the time. You learn to deal with it. A person with social anxiety disorder would never have played to begin with."

The most prominent of this year's players thought to have conquered his affliction is Kansas City pitcher Zack Greinke, who battled the disorder and depression early in his career, but who now, albeit the season is still relatively young, is the American's League's Cy Young frontrunner. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Joey Votto, an integral piece of the Reds' offense, went on the disabled list at the beginning of the month for a "stress-related issue."

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  • flickr/photos/DTrigger05
The 29-year-old Greene, a former first-round draft pick, had a hugely successful spring training, but has sputtered badly since Opening Day. Greene, on the DL since May 29, has called the condition "consuming," and that he seems unable to deal with pressure and failure.

Dr. Lans, though, believes players may simply be looking for an excuse to justify their poor play. As he tells the Times:

"Look, there are certain instances where it is a real issue, and you'd probably find it's been there all along -- going back to childhood, 7 or 8 years old. So I don't want to say it doesn't exist. But you can't suddenly develop it because you're not having a good year."


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