Psychological and Emotional Stress in Athletes
The number of stressors that a professional athlete encounters can exceed 640. Three of the most-common psychological/emotional stressors experienced by athletes as a result of competing/training are (1) performance anxiety, (2) depression from injury, and (3) body image perception. Psychology is certainly important for athletes because it's estimated that 80% of their success is attributed to mental resiliency.
- One of the most-common psychological/emotional stressors experienced by athletes as a result of competing/training is performance anxiety.
- As its name implies, performance anxiety involves athletes worrying about how well they will do during competition.
- Performance anxiety is very common among professional athletes, as approximately 50% of them suffer from it.
- The prevalence of performance anxiety has been sharply rising, as its prevalence was just about 10% two decades ago.
- An expert summarized the performance anxiety issue among athletes well in stating: "Today, there’s so much pressure they [athletes] put on themselves. They feel they don’t want to disappoint. . . We see so much anxiety. It’s amazing."
- The performance anxiety psychological/emotional stressor also impacts non-athletes in the form of pressure to succeed.
- Research found that 67% of millennials reported feeling "'extreme' pressure to succeed, compared to 40 percent of GenXers and 23 percent of Boomers."
- Depression following an injury is also among the most-common psychological/emotional stressors experienced by athletes, as a result of competing/training.
- There is a strong nexus between depression and injuries among athletes.
- Injuries are extremely common among athletes. As just one example, nine in ten student athletes said they have some type of sports injury and over half (54%) said they played through an injury.
- Research has found that 80% of athletes being treated for injuries also cited psychological impacts resulted from those injuries.
- A sports injury has been described as "[o]ne of the most recognized risk factors for psychological distress among male athletes . . . ."
- An injury can be so significant for an athlete that it was even described as a "[m]ajor negative life event."
- Even non-injured athletes suffer from depression, as a study found that 21.4% of college student athletes in the U.S. reported experiencing depression symptoms. As another example, in Australia, 27.2% of athletes experienced depression symptoms.
- Depression is also a very prevalent psychological/emotional stressor among non-athletes, as the World Health Organization found that over 300 million individuals worldwide experience depression.
3. Body Image Perception
- One of the most-common psychological and emotional stressors experienced by athletes as a result of training/competing is body image perception, as demonstrated by the prevalence of eating disorders among athletes.
- Body image perception is so prevalent among athletes because their performance and appearance is closely linked to their body health.
- Approximately one-third of athletes (33-35%) said they have an eating disorder.
- Athletes are especially prone to eating disorders, as they are two to three "times more likely than the average individual to develop an eating disorder."
- Among women who participate in aesthetic sports, 43% have eating patterns classified as "disordered."
- A study of 583 triathletes (female and male) found that 100% of them "were unhappy with their current BMI [body mass index]."
- Between five percent and 10% of anorexia diagnoses are among males, but nearly half of those males (45%) were athletes or have a job where weight control is integral for performance.
- The body image psychological/emotional stressor strongly impacts non-athletes as well. According to the World Health Organization, eating disorders affect 70 million individuals worldwide.
- Within the general public, males account for one-fourth of people suffering from anorexia and approximately 50% of people suffering from binge eating disorder.
- In the U.S., seven million females in the U.S. have an eating disorder, as do one million males.
Your Research Team Applied the Following Strategy:
We identified the three psychological/emotional stressors experienced by athletes as a result of competing/training by first consulting sources that discussed stressors that athletes encounter. An example of one such source that we consulted was titled "3 Types of Psychological Stress Affecting Athletes In-season." We then proceeded with our research by looking for hard data demonstrating the prevalence of those psychological/emotional stressors among athletes. We categorized the three stressors included above as among the most-common stressors experienced by athletes as a result of competing/training based on the percentages of athletes affected by each stressor. As our research findings demonstrate, each of the three stressors affect a very significant proportion of athletes, which is why we included them. The sources we used throughout our research ranged from sports-related sources such as Global Sports Development to media sources such as Inc. Together, this research process provided us with all the information we sought.