An overview of sport psychiatry

Am J Psychiatry. 1992 May;149(5):606-14. doi: 10.1176/ajp.149.5.606.


Objective: Although the application of psychiatric methods and principles to sports is relatively unsystematic at this time, athletic behavior presents several issues of interest to psychiatry. The aim of this paper is to provide a framework for understanding the developmental, occupational, pathologic, therapeutic, and research aspects of sport psychiatry.

Method: Studies in psychiatry, psychology, and psychoanalysis provide the basis for this overview, and nonscientific works are cited where they illuminate various issues. Illustrative case examples are also reported.

Results: It is proposed, but not proven, that athletes undergo phase-specific development and that they may suffer impairments in adapting to the athletic context. This context may also modify treatment modalities.

Conclusions: There is a need for more clinical studies of athletes, especially in the realms of childhood traumas, competitive issues, and mental illnesses. Because of the close relationship of mental and physical phenomena in sports and because athletic behaviors are often precisely measurable, athletics may constitute a fruitful area for psychiatric research.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Psychotherapy
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Sports Medicine