What are common root causes for mental health issues regarding athletes?

On one hand, athletes are viewed and depicted as almost superior beings. People who possess superior levels of athleticism, ability, and people who live such perfectly glamorous lifestyles. On the other hand, there is reality. The fact that athletes are just like you and I. People who are susceptible to common forms of mental health issues, depression, anxiety, etc. After learning that, yes, athletes do battle mental health, I was curious to see what are common root causes of this…

In a study done by “Frontiers in Psychology”, British athletes were examined regarding mental health. The aim of this study was to examine the experiences of elite athletes who suffered from depression during their athletic career. This examination was carried out in the form of an interview. The interview started with a question about the participants “background”, which lead to questions on the three main areas of study, diagnosis, genesis, symptomatology. The diagnosis of participant one listed as, “depression, anxiety, and ADHD”. The genesis or “trigger” for this participant was listed as “bullying and mistreatment within a sport organization”. Symptomatology for this participant was listed as “aggressiveness, increased impulsivity, and isolating themselves from others.  The diagnosis for participant two was listed as, “depression”, and the “trigger” was listed as, “end of career injury”. Lastly, the symptomatology for this participant was listed as “aggressiveness, withdrawing behavior, and increased anxiety.”

My source above is only a small sample size of the research I found regarding the “triggers” of mental health issues in athletes. My final takeaway or analysis of the most common trigger for mental health issues in athletes is what I label as a “shock of reality”. A shock of reality that is basically telling the athlete that their career is over, and they just cannot play anymore. There are different scenarios for different athletes. Whether it is a career ending injury, constantly being traded, decreased level of play, etc. All leading to a decrease in confidence, which ultimately leads to depression.

Studying this topic has been very interesting to me, because of the reason I listed above. With the way that athletes are generally depicted, it is almost amazing with how frequent mental health occurs in athletes. Athletes such as Michael Phelps, NBA Legend Jerry West, Lou Williams, Kevin Love, etc. all have suffered. Then again, to contradict myself, when you look at how extreme fans and the media can be critical of professional athletes with social media, it is not that surprising. Mental health is a serious issue in sports, I hope that these athletes can find a way to win their respective battles.


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