Preventing Athlete Burnout Through Mental Health Support

Burnout is a syndrome that is generally the result of continual training, competition, and compounding demands that come with being an elite athlete. Common signs and symptoms of athlete burnout include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

  • Diminished or plateaued strength and stamina
  • Chronic fatigue
  • High resting heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive impairment (difficulty concentrating, poor memory recall, etc.)
  • Compromised immune system (and subsequent illnesses)
  • Emotional impairment such as loss of interest, moodiness, and irritability
  • Stress, anxiety and depression

It’s clear that these signs and symptoms reverberate not only into athletic performance, but into studies (for student athletes) and into familial and social environments. Compromise in any of these circles back into burnout, and a vicious cycle ensues.

Unfortunately, individuals who search online for information about how to prevent athlete burnout often receive instructions that primarily focus on physical interventions. We’re here to intervene. As a leader in mental and behavioral health support for elite athletes, Kindbridge Behavioral Health insists that to be effective and sustainable, a burnout recovery and prevention program should make ongoing mental health support an equal priority. Here’s why.

How Mental Health Support is a Critical Element in the Treatment and Prevention of Burnout in Elite Athletes

Support for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

As addressed above, symptoms of athlete burnout include stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s a misconception to think that these will go away with physical interventions such as increased periods of rest between training sessions, time-off from competition, and improved nutritional programs. Ask professional athletes who have been open about their mental health and they will tell you that support from therapists and counselors is key. Moreover, this support must be ongoing and not just used to treat athlete burnout until it appears to have subsided. Ongoing support ensures that athletes are better equipped to emotionally manage the mental stressors that accompany physical demands.

Mental health professional intervention is also important for another reason – the risk of misdiagnosis. Keith A. Kaufman, Ph.D, from the NCAA Sport Science Institute states:

“Symptoms of athlete burnout can look a lot like clinical depression, so it is valid to wonder how our understanding of its prevalence has been impacted by misdiagnosis.  In my practice, I have encountered athletes who had been diagnosed with depression and even put on antidepressant medication by mental health professionals, when, in fact, they were burning out in their sport.

NCAA Mental Health Best Practices

Of course, the risk of misdiagnosis can work the other way around. An athlete (or his/her coaches and trainers) may assume that burnout is present when in fact the athlete struggles from anxiety disorder or depression. Or, comorbidity between burnout and a mental or behavioral health disorder may be present. Considering the risk associated with either scenario the importance of mental health intervention becomes crystal clear.

Kindbridge Behavioral Health provides dedicated treatment for athletes who suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression due to burnout or otherwise. These services are provided online in a convenient, safe, and confidential environment. Click one or more of the following to learn more:

Protection Against Other Threats to Mental and Behavioral Health

Mental and behavioral health of elite athletes is not just vulnerable to burnout, but to other threats that require immediate access to counseling services. For instance, student athletes also face academic pressures that can lead to, or contribute to, feelings of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and depression. Elite athletes (from high-school to professional) are also bombarded by temptation regarding substances (alcohol and drugs) that made lead to abuse disorders and also promiscuous sexual activity that may cooccur with porn addiction and/or sex addiction. In addition, athletes are deeply affected by the problem gambling crisis in America. Research finds that instances of problem gambling in athletes are significantly greater than with the general public. Once again it becomes evident that greater access to mental health support services is required for assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing counseling for all of the threats they may face.

Kindbridge is America’s mental health support provider for elite athletes and the organizations behind them. We work with the NCAA, the NFLPA’s PAF, NASCAR, and a variety other leagues and organizations in addition to individual athletes and their families. Protect against athlete burnout beginning today by connecting to Kindbridge Behavioral Health.

Concerned Athletes, Athletic Organizations, and Institutions

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


Email [email protected]

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