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. There has been immense shifts in the athlete culture and mental health is now being realized 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.
Being an athlete can have an impact on your mental health in so many different ways. For example, athletic pursuits and exercise can worsen, mask, or even improve mental health symptoms. I encourage you to reflect on your own relationship with sport and exercise and 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 okay.
It is so, so common to feel uncomfortable bringing up your mental health concerns with your coach, doctor, parents, or fellow athletes. Oftentimes, sports psychiatrists were or are athletes themselves ,which helps them truly understand and empathize with athletes. They will partner with you by helping you process and identify patterns that are not serving you, establishing goals, and providing treatment options, like medication, therapy, or lifestyle changes.
Don’t know where you can find a sports psychiatrist? Ask your coach if your team has one. Google is a good place to start but your best bet will be checking out the International Society for Sports Psychiatry directory.