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  • Dr. Erica Burger

Why See a Sports Psychiatrist?


Sports psychiatrists are a small but growing group of physicians who are passionate about helping athletes improve and maintain their mental health. They are useful in consulting liaison roles for professional and college sports teams, educating both athletes and teams about mental health. Just as an athlete would see a sports medicine physician for an athletic injury, an athlete should also be able to see a sports psychiatrist for mental health concerns. Athlete culture is shifting and mental health is increasingly seen as a big part of athlete well-being and performance.


While sports psychiatrists can often be found in team settings, they also work individually with elite, college, and recreational athletes who have psychiatric illness. Because of the special considerations in athletes such as therapeutic use exemptions and the impact that medications can have on athletic performance, sports psychiatrists have specialized training in prescribing psychiatric medications to athletes. They can provide treatment options for and identify conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, exercise addiction, ADHD, psychosis, body dysmorphia, insomnia, traumatic brain injuries, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Being an athlete can have an impact on your mental health in different ways. For example, athletic pursuits and exercise can worsen, mask, or even improve mental health symptoms. Times of transition such as injury, overtraining, or retirement from your sport can add additional stress. Exercise can also be addictive. When you reflect on your own relationship with sport and exercise, what type of impact, if any, your mental health has on your sport and what impact your sport has on your mental health?


It is really common to feel hesitant about bringing up your mental health concerns with your coach, doctor, parents, or fellow athletes. Sports psychiatrists often were or are athletes themselves. They understand and empathize with athletes. They will partner with you by helping you process and identify your thinking patterns and emotions, develop stress management skills, as well as discuss other treatment options, like medication or lifestyle changes.


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