Most of time, as an athlete, you are at the top of your game, but when you start getting distracted with personal or psychological issues, it can interfere with your athletic performance. When you are no longer able to compete on a consistently high-level, it may be time for you to contact a sports psychiatrist.
A sports psychiatrist helps you identify the psychological stressors that are negatively impacting your athletic performance, assists you as your work through your problems and teaches you strategies to reduce your stress-level. The purpose of sports psychiatry is to help you clear your mind so that you can focus on the game.
A sports psychiatrist can help you unblock hidden memories and confront your fears so that you can focus on the game. During a sports psychiatry session, you are expected to participate in mental resilience and performance endurance trainings. The purpose of these trainings is to help you perform at an optimal level.
Your sports psychiatrist can help you effectively manage your relationship issues, work-related conflicts, phobias, attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression, adjustment disorders, anxiety, anger issues and substance abuse issues.
It is not uncommon for athletes, who are consistently winning, to behave aggressively outside of the game. If you feel like you are losing control of the situation or you experience depression, a change in mood and/or behavior that it is affecting your athletic performance, you should contact a sport psychiatrist as soon as possible.
How Can A Sports Psychiatrist Help Me?
The primary function of a sports psychiatrist is to help you effectively manage dysfunctional relationships, family conflicts, career-related problems, depression, psychotic disorders, anxiety, phobias, addictions and/or other life stressors. In other words, a sports psychiatrist works with you to improve your mental health and athletic performance.
It is important to note that stress and impaired mental health can interfere with your performance as an athlete. In severe cases, the stress associated with being considered a “superior” athlete can cause you to develop obsessive-compulsive rituals that must be performed several times before a game. For instance, if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may fixate on a football maneuver and practice that maneuver with a teammate over and over until it makes both of you late for the game.
A sports psychiatrist can also help you identify, confront and work through aggressive behaviors, excessive gambling, infidelity and/or suicidal ideation. Research suggests that “top performing” athletes tend to exhibit higher levels of aggression and risky behaviors then non-athletes and “lower performing” athletes.
What Does Sport Psychiatry Treatment Involve?
Sports psychiatrists utilize the systemic approach to treatment. In other words, sports psychiatrists explore how outside influences (agents, significant others, family, coaches and trainers) affect your athletic performance. In addition, a sports psychiatrist may concentrate psychological issues related to a particular sport such as: brain damage from boxing or marital arts, doping effects in the cycling world and/or spinal cord injuries stemming from football accidents.
Once a sports psychiatrist has identified your specific issue(s), he/she will help you set realistic goals. It is important to note that to effectively treat you, a sports psychiatrist must have extensive sports-related knowledge and experience. Treatment may consist of a combination of individual counseling, group therapy, marriage and family therapy, pharmacotherapy and/or support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Begel, D. & Burton, R. W. (2000). Sport psychiatry: Theory and practice. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.