Depression and Anxiety in relation to Sports Psychology

Depression and Anxiety in relation to Sports Psychology

Like any other individual, athletes are not immune to mental illnesses. In fact, depression and anxiety may even occur at an elevated rate in athletes than the general population. Statistics show that 40 to 60 percent of young adults participating in sports experience high levels of anxiety. Sometimes, sports can help individuals cope with mental conditions, but the pressure associated with active and competitive sports can also cause anxiety and depression. The dynamics of competitive sports are continually changing, exerting more pressure on the athlete from all these different external factors.

The three major risk factors specific to athletes include:

  • Fear of failure. This occurs when an athlete, often top athletes, begins to feel like they are not enough in other people’s eyes. These people could be immediate family members like parents, siblings, or other people, including coaches, fans, teammates, and general populations. High expectations from these people can cause an athlete to feel anxious and depressed, which can result in decreased performance.
  • Perfectionism. Sports activities are always on display for other people to see and often criticize. It is the goal of every athlete always to do the right things and wins all the time. This is even more stressed on top athletes aiming to maintain their status. But as a human is to error, this is not always realistic and can often lead to pressures that can result in one feeling worthless if any mistakes are made. If the stressing and feeling of failure persists, it can ultimately lead to anxiety and depression.
  • Injuries. Most competitive sports, like soccer and basketball, rely on an athlete’s physical ability to perform. Injuries that can be caused by overtraining may leave the athlete feeling desperate. The rehabilitation process can be long and difficult, making one doubt whether they will ever compete again. Even after successful rehabilitation, the fear of re-injury can always cause elevated stress levels that can lead to depression.

On the other, there is evidence that links sports and physical activities to improved mental health. One way to improve our mental well-being is through participating in physical activities. Sports and physical activities increase self-esteem and lower stress and anxiety. Physical activity is also used in combination with medication to treat depression and anxiety. According to statistics, individuals who participate in different sports types showed decreased depression of between 20-30%. Outdoor exercise through sports improves cognitive performance and promotes the feeling of inclusion in children and adults. However, there is still a stigma surrounding people living with mental conditions, which often acts as a barrier to sports participation.

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