Adam Peaty, the British swimming sensation who has won three Olympic gold medals, has opened up about his mental health struggles and his coping mechanisms.
Peaty has previously revealed that he suffered from depression and alcohol problems, and that he entered a “self-destructive spiral” in recent times.
He withdrew from the British Championships in April, citing mental health reasons.
He told BBC Breakfast that a gold medal is “the coldest thing you will ever wear”, because it does not solve any of your problems.
“It’s the coldest thing because you think it will fix all of your problems. It will not,” Peaty said.
Peaty, who plans to compete at the Paris Olympics next year, said his mental health issues worsened last year as he faced injury, motivation issues and the breakdown of his relationship with his son’s mother.
He was also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“I took a break because I was on this endless search of a gold medal or a world record and I looked into the future and I said ‘OK, if I do get that is my life fixed or any better?’ No,” Peaty said.
“So take the time now to really think about who you are, what you want out of life and then get the gold medal.
“Hopefully when I get to the Olympics I will be in a very good mindset, very grateful and most importantly happy.”
Peaty has been unbeatable in his breaststroke events for almost a decade, retaining his 100m title at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 after setting a record for the fastest 20 times in history over the distance earlier that year.
He has also won eight World Championship gold medals, 17 golds at European Championships and four golds at the Commonwealth Games.
Despite his dominance and his world record being nearly a second faster than anyone else has ever swum, Peaty says he hears voices in his head that often make him doubt his swimming abilities.
Asked what voices would say, Peaty said: “If I was going out to a race sometimes it would be ‘you don’t deserve this’, even though I’ve done seven, eight, 10 years, a decade of work.
“Or sometimes it would be a voice of self-doubt, and I think that’s natural because it’s your brain trying to protect itself.”
Peaty missed out on Commonwealth gold in the 100m breaststroke event in Birmingham last year, finishing fourth behind James Wilby after sustaining a broken foot in the build-up.
“As athletes our brains are wired a little bit differently, we’re constantly chasing reward and if we can see that reward we will work extremely hard for that reward,” Peaty said.
“So it’s the same in your life and how do you fill that void especially when you’re injured or in off-season, you’re constantly looking for a high or a reward and a lot of athletes do struggle with alcohol.
“For me it was something that I was constantly chasing and constantly doing and I was like ‘I don’t want this in my life, I don’t really want to do this all the time.’”