NBA Star Royce White Breaks Silence About His Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Royce White has never been one to let obstacles get in the way of his dreams. An inspiring young man and stellar athlete, White was drafted by the NBA's Houston Rockets on June 28, 2012 with the 16th selection. White previously played college basketball with the Iowa State Cyclones basketball team starring for the 2011–12 Cyclones.

While playing for the Cyclones, he was the only Division I basketball player to lead in all five areas: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots, and was selected as an honorable mention Associated Press 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball All-American -- all of this despite having generalized anxiety disorder.

As a high school basketball star he was named 2009 “Mr. Basketball” and was a two-time Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) championship team, member. White was a Class 3A MSHSL champion in 2006 with DeLaSalle High School as a freshman and a Class 4A MSHSL champion in 2009 with Hopkins High School as a senior.

What Makes Royce Tick
These athletic accomplishments only highlight one aspect of Royce White’s life. Though basketball is his dream, the 6’8” 270-pound power-house forward has many passions. During an interview last Spring, White said, “I don’t really have any expectations…I want to play in the NBA, and for as long as I can, but ultimately, I want to do as many things for people as I can possibly do.”

The Diagnosis

In his senior year of high school, Royce was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, GAD, which he is currently being treated for and takes medication. GAD is characterized by constant worry and anxiety over many different activities and events.

Royce does not go it alone. He celebrated his NBA draft party with several dozen of the children from the Orchard Place, a Des Moines organization that treats and assists children with emotional and behavioral disorders. For his 21st birthday party, he hosted a fundraiser for Orchard Place.

Finding a Safe Zone

In an interview with Jerome Solomon, White says he doesn’t feel the effects of GAD on the basketball court, where he feels most comfortable. "On the court is definitely one of my safe zones, something I feel very comfortable with because I've spent so much time there. It's definitely a place where I feel most comfortable out of all the places in my life."

Challenging the Stigma

Perhaps that is why White chose to risk harming his draft status by coming out publicly with his struggles around GAD. “I’m an open book,” White said in his interview with Solomon. He doesn’t run from his challenges in life, nor does he hide behind a social stigma. “The mental illness community is very important to me,” he said. “Their voice being heard is very important to me. Starting to change that stigma that revolves around mental illness is one of the top priorities of my everyday life now.”

Overcoming Legal Issues

Royce experienced some legal troubles as a younger man. He pleaded guilty to theft and disorderly conduct after a shoplifting incident at the Mall of America in which he was accused of attempting to steal $100 worth of merchandise and engaging in a physical altercation with a store security guard. However, White doesn’t blame his legal troubles on GAD and expresses remorse at his actions in the past.

Ending the Silence

“Playing big-time basketball wasn’t my mission when I started out playing,” White said in an interview. “Helping people better their lives – that’s been my goal.” White chooses to end the silence by speaking out, hoping to change the stigma of GAD and other emotional and behavioral disorders. Many believe that his honesty will work for rather than against him. And we will root for White on and off the court.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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