How Mental Health Affects Athletes

how mental health affects athletes

Mental health affects the way an individual thinks, feels and acts. It determines how they handle stress, relationships and decision-making.

As a result, athletes are not immune to these issues and should seek help as soon as possible. They should also be able to talk about their problems with others without feeling judged.


As athletes work toward achieving their sport’s peak performance, they often spend months or years building up physical, mental, and emotional strength. During a competition, they are often pushed to their limits by other athletes or their own internal emotions.

The way they respond to these challenges can have a direct impact on their results, regardless of the level of competition. One common mental health issue that can affect athletes is anxiety.

Anxiety is a common symptom of a mental health disorder and can be treated with psychotherapy. The treatment varies depending on the individual’s diagnosis and personal preferences, but many evidenced-based therapies are effective for treating anxiety. Some of these therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), prolonged exposure therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy.


Depression affects millions of Americans each year, and it’s also a common mental health issue among athletes. Depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), is a mood disorder that can affect how you feel, think and behave.

Depression can have a severe impact on an athlete’s performance and quality of life. It can cause them to stop enjoying their sport and lose interest in their personal relationships.

In addition, it can lead to suicidal ideation. It’s important for coaches, family members and certified athletic trainers to be aware of these symptoms and know how to help their athletes.

In a recent study, researchers at Drexel University and Kean University found that nearly one quarter of NCAA division I college athletes had “clinically relevant” levels of depression symptoms. Women were twice as likely to have the condition than men. This could mean that more attention needs to be paid to the mental health of college athletes.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes dramatic mood swings from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). During these episodes, people may have excessive energy and activity. They may think they’re very smart, or have unusual beliefs or behaviors.

It can affect how you feel and act, as well as your relationships with others. It can also make it hard to focus on training and other goals, or to succeed at them.

Symptoms of bipolar include mania, which involves feelings of elation, extreme happiness and a sense of control. These episodes can last for a week or more, and are followed by periods of depression.

Medications are an important part of treatment for bipolar. They help keep moods stable, but they must be taken consistently, even when you feel well.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a condition that can develop after a person has experienced a traumatic event, such as a car accident, terrorism, military service, war or serious personal assault.

Symptoms of PTSD can range from minor to severe. They may include flashbacks, nightmares or re-experiencing the traumatic event in everyday life.

The symptoms of PTSD can also lead to problems with sleeping, eating and other aspects of daily living. They can also affect performance in sports.

Research has shown that athletes with a history of injury tend to have more severe symptoms of PTSD than healthy individuals. This is especially true for athletes who have suffered a severe ACL rupture.

Symptoms of PTSD can be treated with talk therapy (psychotherapy), medication or a combination of both. Psychotherapy can help to change negative thoughts and feelings, change unhealthy beliefs and behaviors, and manage emotional reactions.