Sports Psychology

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What is sports psychology?

Sports psychology is a specific branch of psychology devoted to supporting the well-being and optimal performance of athletes. Some definitions also include systemic issues surrounding sports teams and organizations, as well as services for coaches, parents of athletes, and others who are deeply involved in sports culture.

Sports psychology can cover sports participation in a wide range of settings, from amateur athletes participating in recreational sports all the way up to Olympians and professional athletes.

Being involved in sports is often an asset in one’s life, offering unique opportunities to work toward goals, bond with peers, and find supportive communities. However, sports can also be stressful or, in some cases, psychologically harmful. If challenges around sports become particularly intense or frequent, they can lead to mental health symptoms and interfere with the activities of daily life.

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Because sports psychology is a relatively young field, it’s hard to know precisely how common sports-related mental health issues are.  

However, the available research indicates that mental health challenges are relatively common amongst student-athletes attending college in the US. A report from the NCAA notes that college student-athletes are about as likely as their non-athlete peers to experience depression and anxiety, but that they are less likely than non-athletes to have sought mental health treatment for these challenges. Another study found that elite athletes more generally are also about as likely as the general population to experience common mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

What are some symptoms related to issues around sports?

Symptoms that might cause someone to seek out a sports psychologist vary widely, but a few of the most common ones include:

Different types of issues around sports

Sports psychologists can provide support around a wide variety of sports-related issues, but the most common scenarios include:

If you’re experiencing challenges related to sports participation, you can explore the following options:

Therapists differ in their approaches to treating sports-related challenges. Some have training specifically in sports psychology, while others may use more general approaches to mental health concerns. Common approaches include:

Find sports psychology therapists near you

Find therapists specializing in sports psychology near you on Zencare. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

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