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  • Writer's pictureDr. Danielle Kamis

Achieving Mental Health and Peak Performance in Elite Athletes

Key points

  • To optimize performance with athletes, mental health needs must be addressed to achieve peak performance within a high-performance culture.

  • Barriers to peak performance include obstacles related to mental health, such as stigma, harassment, abuse, discrimination and other factors impacting life balance.

  • The best psychological interventions are carefully planned to address the specific individual needs of athletes at the right time, in the right place and with the right person.

  • An intervention plan is recommended to equip leaders in sports to better recognize and respond to the mental health needs of elite athletes.

  • Understanding and addressing the influence of social media on performance to create a healthy environment is an ongoing process.

  • Peak performance, the superior use of human potential, can be enhanced by initiating a Psychological Skill Training program, which can enhance clutch performance, improve coping with anxiety, and cement an unshakeable self-belief in one’s athletic prowess.


A holistic approach is needed for athletes to perform at their best; an approach that requires education and the ability to adapt to stress and pressure within a high-performance environment. Unmanaged stress levels can lead to mental and physical problems that may impair balance in the athlete’s life. Stress levels, if severe enough, interfere with energy and recovery, and thus performance. If mental/emotional symptoms become prolonged and severe, an athlete may develop a mental illness. Both genetic and environmental influences play a role in the development of a psychiatric disorder or substance use disorder.

Psychiatric disorders in athletes include adjustment disorders, mood disorders, anxiety and related disorders, sleep disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders and substance use disorders. The first part of this article is focused on social, emotional, physical, and cultural influences that affect performance. It also addresses untreated mental health or substance use disorders, which compromise and limit athletic performance, and in some cases, can be career ending. The second part of the article discusses peak performance, psychological states, psychological skills, mental toughness, and resilience.

Full article available through Psychiatric Clinics of North America


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