Ask An Expert / Anxiety

My 16-year-old son vomits before every basketball game. Could this be generalized anxiety disorder?

Not unless his anxiety is broad, and is disrupting his life

Rachel Busman, PsyD
Rachel Busman, PsyD

Senior Director, Anxiety Disorders Center, Director, Selective Mutism Service

Child Mind Institute

My 16-year-old son vomits before every basketball game, lacks energy on the court and seems to lose concentration while playing. We thought maybe he wasn't eating a healthy lunch or snack before his game but he says he does. Is this considered generalized anxiety disorder?

Before we draw any conclusions about whether anxiety might be causing your son’s vomiting, we need more information. How long has this been going on? What is he eating before games — and when, and how much of it? Does the vomiting happen in other stressful situations — before tests, for example?

I’d suggest talking with your son and getting more information about what’s happening. What does he say about the vomiting? You’d want to find out how is he feeling when it happens, as well as during the games. What are his feelings about being on the team?

It’s possible that the coach is tough on his players, making your son very nervous before and during the game. It’s also possible that what he’s eating is compounding pre-game nerves. Have you consulted your pediatrician?

Generalized anxiety disorder is a constellation of symptoms — worry or unease — that occur in a variety of situations. Kids with GAD are unreasonably anxious about their performance in school and sports, about their family, about their health. They are broadly worrisome, and their worries are causing impairment, getting in the way of things they want to do.

Of course anxiety comes in many forms, but generalized anxiety disorder doesn’t seem to apply your son unless he’s experiencing anxiety in other situations as well as his basketball games.