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Sport and Competition

Why Athletes Are Turning to Sports Psychiatrists for Success

Why more athletes are seeking sports psychiatrists for a competitive edge.

Key points

  • Sports psychiatrists build athletes' mental resilience—crucial for handling high-pressure situations.
  • They enhance focus through mindfulness and cognitive strategies, boosting athletic performance.
  • Effective stress management helps athletes handle performance anxiety and set healthy boundaries.
  • Sports psychiatrists support mental health during injury recovery, aiding emotional and psychological healing.

The world of sports is competitive and incredibly time-consuming. Athletes are held to a high standard and have several responsibilities when it comes to preparing for competition and performing well on game day. Many elite athletes have spoken out recently in the news about their mental health struggles and the resources that they wish had been available to them. Nowadays, athletes are seeking a competitive edge to excel in their performance, leading more athletes to see the value in working with mental health professionals.

Sports and performance psychiatrists are psychiatrists with additional training in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health conditions in athletes. This subspecialty of psychiatry truly understands the unique psychological pressures and stressors faced by elite athletes. When sports psychiatrists work with teams and organizations, they often provide comprehensive services, such as substance misuse prevention, stress control, crisis intervention, sleep and energy management, injury recovery management, mental preparation, and mental health condition treatments.1 In addition, sports psychiatrists can also work with individuals

Here are 5 reasons why working with a sports and performance psychiatrist can be the secret weapon to excelling in sports:

1. Increased Mental Toughness and Resilience: Sports psychiatrists help athletes build mental resilience by working with them to optimize their mental health and overall well-being. This ultimately leads to being able to handle high-pressure situations during competition effectively. In addition, when athletes face setbacks, sports psychiatrists can help them bounce back and return to play more effectively. Building resilience is essential to the mental component of training.

2. Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Sports psychiatrists are able to teach techniques that ultimately lead to more effective concentration and focus, enabling athletes to excel in their sport. These skills can include mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive behavioral strategies. To unlock peak performance, athletes must be able to stay present and focus on the game in front of them.

3. Effective Stress Management: Being an athlete comes with many demands and expectations, yet there is often not mandatory mental training like there is for physical training in several sporting teams. Sports psychiatrists can help athletes navigate certain stressors, such as performance anxiety, and both set boundaries and manage expectations for those around them.

4. Support During Injury Recovery: When an athlete experiences an injury, it’s not only difficult from a physical standpoint, but it’s oftentimes emotionally challenging as well. Sports psychiatrists are essential in providing mental health support during injury recovery and assessing progress from a psychological standpoint during the duration of an athlete’s rehabilitation. Sports psychiatrists can provide medication management, if indicated, when an athlete’s injury leads to clinical diagnoses, such as depression or anxiety. Oftentimes, anxiety after an injury surrounds fear of reinjury and fear of not being able to return to play with the same skill level as before the injury.

5. Treatment of Mental Health Conditions: Athletes are certainly not immune to mental health conditions and have similar rates of depression and anxiety as the general population. Sports psychiatrists are essential in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health conditions in athletes. By working with sports psychiatrists, athletes may be able to uncover issues that were previously holding them back, further propelling them into their athletic careers.

Sports and performance psychiatrists play an essential role in not only the diagnosis, treatment, and education of mental health conditions in elite athletes but also in helping train athletes from a mental standpoint to accelerate their growth to reach their potential.


1. McDuff DR, Garvin M. Working with sports organizations and teams. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2016 Dec;28(6):595-605. doi: 10.1080/09540261.2016.1212820. Epub 2016 Aug 9. PMID: 27686114.

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