Frequently Asked Questions

Mental illness involves problems with our thinking, behavior or emotions that lead to significant distress or impairs our ability to healthily function in our day-to-day lives.

Mental illness is common and can range from mild feelings of depression or anxiety to severe distress and dysfunction which can be life-threatening. In the general population, one in five people are sufficiently distressed to justify seeking professional help. For elite athletes, the number is higher - one in four.

It is not a ‘weakness’ that can be fixed by simply ‘toughening up.’ Just like we would not tell someone having a heart attack to ‘get over it’ telling someone with a mental illness to ‘get over it’ is equally unhelpful.

Scientific, medical and social research is enabling a better understanding of the nature and cause of mental illnesses and symptoms, and improved diagnoses and treatment are constantly being developed.

However, unfortunately we still do not have blood tests or scans that can easily diagnose a mental illness and therefore, diagnosis and treatment require a thorough assessment by an expert psychiatrist.

A sports psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has obtained additional expert training and qualifications to become a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and emotional problems experienced by professional athletes. They are specialists just like cardiologists who manage heart problems or endocrinologists who treat problems such as diabetes.

Because psychiatrists have both medical and psychiatric training, they are able to view illness in an integrated way by taking into consideration the effects of emotional disturbances on the body as a whole, as well as the effects of physical conditions on the mind. This is important, as many emotional disturbances affect various parts of the body and physical illnesses can certainly affect the mind.

In addition, psychiatrists recognize the important role that our environment has on our health. Therefore, they take a holistic approach in managing an individual’s health by carefully understanding the biological, psychological, and social aspects – otherwise known as the biopsychosocial model.

Areas of focus to a sports psychiatrist might include attention deficit disorder (ADHD), mood disorders (i.e. depression, bipolar), anxiety, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, anger issues, substance abuse issues, gambling, suicidality, recovery from physical injury and issues surrounding aging and money. A sports psychiatrist is trained to recognize unhealthy coping methods and has techniques for successful intervention.

Yes. Psychotherapy provided by a sports psychiatrist helps athletes cope with failure or success, self-discipline efforts, unrealistic expectations and interpersonal relationships with family, friends, teammates, coach, agent, and fans.

Unlike a psychologist, a psychiatrist is a fully qualified specialist doctor, who has completed at least 12 years of medical education and professional training in medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. As a result, psychiatrists have a keen understanding of medications and can prescribe when necessary.

Also, psychiatrists have a unique perspective in being able to diagnose, manage and care for people with mental illnesses and emotional problems, whilst keeping both their emotional and physical states in perspective.

Although psychologists are not medical doctors, they are qualified professionals who have undergone study in relation to human thoughts, feelings and behaviors and are often highly skilled in providing psychological therapy such as improving coping strategies.

However, many psychiatrists are also expertly skilled in providing psychological therapy just like psychologists.

Psychiatrists often utilize a variety of treatment methods in order to provide a holistic way of caring for individuals with mental illness. This can include physical treatments, medication and psychological therapy or a combination of these.

Treatments are based on their proven evidence of effectiveness and tailored to individual patient needs and preferences.

Psychiatric medication is tested and researched in the same rigorous way as other medical treatments. That is, an antidepressant and a blood pressure tablet are developed in the same way.

A wide range of medications is available for use in psychiatric illnesses. Medications can effectively remove symptoms, alter the course of illnesses, and commonly return patients to a healthy and functioning life. In some instances, medications can be lifesaving such as in the case of a severe depression.

Psychological therapies are also thoroughly researched before being accepted as a suitable treatment modality. Psychotherapy involves a psychiatrist and patient discussing problems during regularly scheduled sessions to assist the patient to better understand the basis of their problems and to find a solution.

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