Posted: 17 May 2023

Anxiety is a prevalent mental health condition that can significantly impact an athlete's performance and overall well-being. Within the realm of sports, the pressure to succeed, constant evaluation, and high expectations can contribute to heightened levels of anxiety. The Mental Health Foundation sheds light on this issue, providing valuable insights into the effects of anxiety on athletes. This article explores the relationship between anxiety and sport, drawing upon the knowledge and research presented by the Mental Health Foundation.

MentalHealthAwarenessWeek ToHelpMyAnxiety


Anxiety is a normal response to stress, but excessive and persistent anxiety can be detrimental to an athlete's mental state, physical health, and performance. According to the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety can manifest in various ways in the sporting context, such as performance anxiety, social anxiety, and general anxiety disorder.

Performance Anxiety: Performance anxiety, commonly known as "choking under pressure," is a specific form of anxiety that arises when athletes experience excessive worry and fear of failure during competitions. This anxiety can disrupt focus, impair decision-making abilities, and lead to decreased performance levels.

Social Anxiety: Athletes, especially those in team sports, often face social anxiety, which stems from the fear of judgment, criticism, or rejection by teammates, coaches, or spectators. This anxiety can make athletes feel self-conscious, affecting their confidence, communication, and teamwork.

General Anxiety Disorder: Some athletes may also experience general anxiety disorder, which is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety in various aspects of life. This condition can negatively impact an athlete's overall well-being, leading to decreased motivation, disrupted sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating.


MicrosoftTeams image (22)


 Anxiety in sport is a multifaceted issue that requires attention and support from the sporting community. The insights provided by the Mental Health Foundation shed light on the impact of mental health on athletes' well-being and performance:

Athletes, much like the general population, experience comparable rates of anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. However, growing evidence suggests that athletes may face a unique set of well-being challenges at various stages of their involvement in sports.

The Mental Health Foundations research revealed several key themes based on athletes' feedback:

Identity Impact: Athletes expressed feeling defined primarily by their sport rather than as individuals, which affected their sense of self.

Injury Isolation: When injured, athletes often felt isolated, although some managed to cope effectively with their injuries.

Uncertainty and Valuation: Athletes faced challenges dealing with uncertainties surrounding selection and how they were perceived within their clubs, affecting their emotional well-being.

Emotion Suppression: Many athletes admitted to bottling up their emotions, often feeling compelled to maintain a positive facade even when they were not genuinely feeling positive.

Fear of Vulnerability: Most athletes feared revealing their struggles or appearing emotionally "weak," contributing to additional pressure and internalized stress.

Happiness and Performance: A significant majority of athletes acknowledged that their performance improved when they were feeling happy.

In addition to these factors, specific injuries like concussions, major negative life events (such as family bereavement), inadequate support networks, and impaired sleep were identified as additional contributors to well-being challenges and mental health issues among athletes.


IMG 2777

By increasing awareness, creating a supportive environment, and providing psychological skills training, athletes can better manage anxiety and thrive both on and off the water. Prioritizing mental health in sport is not only essential for individual athletes but also contributes to the overall health and success of the sporting community as a whole.


The Mental Health Foundation provides information and resources related to mental health in general but also in sports. You can visit their official website to access their publications, research, and articles that specifically address mental health in the context of sports. We have added some relevant information below.

 - 'What can we do to cope with feelings of anxiety?'

- The Mental Health Foundation booklet on mental health in sport ‘Head in for Success’