Mental Health

It has been found that athletes may experience mental health symptoms such as burnouts, insomnia, distress, alcohol/drug misuse, depression, unhealthy eating patterns. The causes can be originated by performance pressures, injury, dealing with failure and/or success, and career transition, in addition to some life challenges such as relationship conflicts, financial difficulties, griefs.

Mental health in the following IOC documents:

  • The Olympic Charter (in force from July 2020)
  • IOC Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration (2018)
  • IOC Code of Ethics (2020)
  • IPC Code of Ethics (2016)
  • Basic Universal Principles of good governance (2008)
  • The IOC Olympic Movement Medical Code (2016)
  • International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Medical Code (2011)

According with the Olympic movement medical code (2016): "The Olympic movement, to accomplish its mission, encourages all stakeholders to take measures… necessary to protect the health of participants by minimising the risks of physical injury, illness and psychological harm".

Definition of mental health

A state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

This argument includes:

  • a sense of internal well-being;
  • feeling in line with one’s own values and beliefs;
  • feeling positive and optimistic about the life;
  • feeling at peace with oneself.

Mental health symptoms

There are some symptoms such as negative modalities of thinking, behaviours and/or feelings that may generate affliction and hamper with actions, including sports activities.

Mental health disorders

These disorders must be assessed through a medical diagnosis. They are characterised by significant modifications in a human being’s modus of thinking, emotions and/or behaviours associated with disabilities in social activities like training or competition.
The most common disorders are:

  • anxiety: characterised by anxiety-related behavioural (phobias and panic attacks), excessive fear;
  • stress;
  • alcohol misuse/dependence;
  • eating disorders: caused by not regulated style of eating;
  • depression: constant sadness/low mood, disproportionate weakness and lack of enthusiasm an amusement.

Some international researches have shown that sport is a determining factor that supports to overcome these issues but when they reach a determined level, it indispensable the help of a physician.

Let’s have a close look at the symptoms that led to the above-mentioned mental disorders:

  • bipolar and psychotic disarrangements;
  • post-traumatic stress confusions;
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity irregularities;
  • drugs use;
  • suicide;
  • gambling disorder and other behavioural addictions.

Impacts of these disarrays:

The impact of these malaises can led to poor performance, challenges in recovering from injury and downgrading of the quality life. The most common kind of injuries related to the mental health are severe musculoskeletal injuries, the adversity from bad sports achievements, leaning towards defective carping, undergoing multiple surgeries.

However, with appropriate support, such impacts can be reduced.

Major mental health issues and disturbances in Athletes

  • Anxiety and depression;
  • Sleep-related problems;
  • Substance use and substance misuse disorders such as: alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, cannabis/cannabinoids, stimulants and anabolic-androgenic steroids;
  • Bipolar and psychotic disorders;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Suicide;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders;
  • Attention – deficit/hyperactivity disorder;
  • Gambling disorder and other behavioural addictions;
  • Alcohol misuse.