Ronnie O’Sullivan has opened up about negative thoughts which have swamped him mind (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)Ronnie O’Sullivan is arguably the most naturally gifted snooker player in history, but that does not mean everything comes easy to him on the baize.
The Rocket has battled various mental health struggles over his lengthy career, from what he labels as ‘snooker depression’ to a range of addictions.
The 43-year-old has also had to fight serious anxiety which comes to the fore when he is playing tournaments, specifically when he is away from home a lot, which has led to his significantly reduced schedule in recent years.
For someone who many consider the best player of all time, it is hard to comprehend that he would have serious doubts about his own ability, but that is exactly what the five-time world champion has had to deal with while trying to perform in front of big crowds.
‘I likened it a little bit like when people go on stage and before they go out they freeze, because it’s all about the performance, and that’s exactly what it was like me with snooker,’ O’Sullivan told BBC’s Don’t Tell Me The Score podcast.
O’Sullivan has learned how to manage his problems with anxiety (Picture: Getty Images)‘I could do brilliant performances but it was always about the next one, am I going to fall apart? Am I not going to be able to pot a ball? Am I going to embarrass myself out there? Are people going to start laughing at me and think I’m a fraud? I had all that going on.
‘If I don’t compete and don’t put myself in that situation with snooker that fear and anxiety disappeared.’
Simply not playing was not a realistic option for the Rocket, so he took steps to manage his anxiety that have allowed him to compete at the highest level and remain world number one at 43-years-old.
A big part of this career management has been competing in just a handful of tournaments per season in recent years, but also working with psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.
‘Even though I’ve worked with Steve Peters and it’s helped me a lot, I still get moments,’ continued O’Sullivan. ‘It’s nowhere near as bad as it was but I still get moments when I really do doubt myself.
‘I think you’ve just got to manage it and I’ve realised since 2005 that I have to see it coming. I do a diary so I can look back on it and think ,”What did I do here?”
‘I hit a little bad period here, because I took too much on. Sometimes I don’t spend enough time at home cooking for myself, looking after myself, spending time with my partner, seeing my children.
‘Once I’ve done all those things it builds up a shield and I’m ready to now go into that two week battle and do some graft and win this tournament and compete against the best snooker players in the world.
‘If I try and do four or five weeks competing with the best in the world from hotel room to hotel room, country to country I start to neglect myself and start to question what it’s all about. This isn’t really making me happy, I might have won a couple of tournaments but really I just can’t wait to get home.
‘I’m like a racehorse, if you race him every day at some point he’s going to come last.’
O’Sullivan has not played since going out in the first round of the 2019 World Championship to James Cahill, but is expected to return to the table at the Shanghai Masters in September.
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