Sport specificity of mental disorders: the issue of sport psychiatry



The prevalence of psychiatric conditions among elite athletes is still under debate. More and more evidence has accumulated that high-performance athletes are not protected from mental disorders as previously thought. The authors discuss the issue of the sport specificity of selected mental diseases in elite athletes. Specific aspects of eating disorders, exercise addiction, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and mood disorders in the context of overtraining syndrome are examined. In particular, the interrelationship between life and work characteristics unique to elite athletes and the development of mental disorders are reviewed. Differences of clinical presentation and some therapeutic consequences are discussed. The authors suggest that the physical and mental strains endured by elite athletes might influence the onset and severity of their psychiatric disorder. Beside the existing research strategies dealing with the amount of exercise, its intensity and lack of recreation experienced by athletes, further research on psycho-social factors is needed to better understand the sport-specific aetiology of mental disorders in high-performance athletes.


Sport psychiatry Elite athlete High performance Mental disorder Psychiatric care 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pain & Autonomic Integrative Research (PAIR), Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Practice for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Sport PsychiatryCologneGermany

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