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“Athletes are Real People with Real Mental Health Issues:” Olympic Medalist Molly Seidel on the Long Road to Her ADHD Diagnosis

Molly Seidel is a professional marathoner, Olympian, and mental health advocate. She made history in her Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games, where she became one of only three American women to ever medal in an Olympic marathon. Along the way, Seidel has been open and frank about her experiences living and competing as an athlete with OCD and ADHD, as well as her struggles with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Here, she shares her story.

Molly Seidel is one of only three American women to medal in the Olympics in one of the most brutal of events, the marathon. Even with all her triumphs in competition, perhaps what is even more remarkable about Molly is her candor and courage in discussing and addressing a series of mental health challenges.

Molly Seidel was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) while studying and competing as a Division I athlete at the University of Notre Dame. She continued to compete through college, winning several NCAA championships, before seeking treatment for eating disorders. It wasn’t until years later — after medaling at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and finishing fourth with a personal best in the 2021 NYC Marathon — that Molly discovered the root source of her ongoing mental health challenges: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“When I speak publicly about being diagnosed with ADHD and get absolutely flamed online for it, it’s frustrating and a little bit heart breaking sometimes because I know there are other people out there who are dealing with this,” Molly said in a recent conversation with WebMD. “One of the reasons that I didn’t get help earlier, when I was in high school or in college, is because I didn’t have the role models speaking out about this. Everybody who was at the pro level running then seemed like these perfect people, and I was like, Why doesn’t my brain work?

“I do think we’re getting to a point where there is a lot more acceptance,” said Molly, who suffered a race-ending hip injury during the 2022 Boston Marathon. “I think the Tokyo Olympics was this watershed moment for mental health, but there is still so much stigma and so much hatred out there that we need to be aware of… Athletes are real people with real mental health issues.”

Read the full transcript of this video interview with Molly Seidel on Medscape.