What is Ricky Williams Experience With Social Anxiety Disorder?

Ricky Williams and Social Anxiety Disorder

Ricky Williams has fought a public battle with social anxiety disorder.
Ricky Williams. Photo: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images


Professional Football Player

Experience with SAD:

Imagine a shy and reserved college student suddenly thrust into the limelight and unable to cope with unbearable social anxiety. This is the story of Ricky Williams, a professional football player who has publicly shared his diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). At 22, Ricky had everything a young man could want -- fame, fortune and the ability to travel anywhere in the world -- but he was too afraid to even leave the house.

Ricky's story unfolded after being drafted out of college to the New Orleans' Saints and becoming an overnight sensation. After his second year with the National Football League (NFL), Ricky's social anxiety had become so debilitating that he dreaded going to airports, the grocery store or just about anywhere that he might be recognized by a fan.

Unaware of Ricky's underlying disorder, the media portrayed the troubled young man as aloof and weird, because he would give interviews while still wearing his helmet and would avoid contact with fans. Unaware that he was suffering from a treatable disorder himself, Ricky felt trapped and isolated from family and friends, because he couldn't explain to them what he was feeling.


Of the few famous people with SAD who have talked publicly about their treatment, it could be argued that Ricky has been the most open about his path to recovery.

Urged by a friend to seek help, Ricky began a treatment program consisting of Paxil (paroxetine) and therapy. His therapist, Janey Barnes, has commented that Ricky was diagnosed with SAD, because he was more than just shy -- his anxiety was terribly debilitating.


Ricky Williams (Errick Lynne Williams Jr.) was born, along with twin sister Cassandra, on May 21, 1977, in San Diego, Calif.

His parents later divorced in 1983, disrupting a home life that had already seen its ups and downs.

Ricky received a football scholarship at the University of Texas, where he did well both as a student and an athlete. After college, Ricky was drafted by the New Orleans' Saints in 1999 and the Miami Dolphins in 2002 and played briefly for the Toronto Argonauts in 2006. Ricky has never been married but has several children. He is a Heisman trophy winner and was at one time a spokesperson for paxil. Throughout his football career, Ricky has battled problems with marijuana use and resulting suspensions. Ricky is a vegan and a supporter of PETA.

Ricky's Thoughts About SAD:

..."I've never been a really outgoing person, but I was never afraid to go out and have a good time. When I was [drafted to] New Orleans, it got to the point where I didn't want to leave my house. I didn't want to go anywhere. I didn't want to go to the grocery store. I didn't go out on dates. Occasionally, I'd go to dinner, but that was probably the extent of it."

..."I understand that a lot of people, especially men, look up to me because of my profession, so I have a chance to reach out to people and let them know what I've been through and how treatment has made my life so much better," added Williams.

"If my story can help even one person to seek help, it will feel as though I've scored the game-winning touchdown."


Dr. Donnica.com. Social Anxiety Disorder With Ricky Williams. Accessed May 15, 2008.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America. A Story of Social Anxiety Disorder: Ricky Williams. Accessed May 15, 2008.

Continue Reading