Performance Anxiety


The Connection Between Anxiety and Athletic Performance

Have you done well in practice and then did not perform during the game, or you were so nervous it affected your performance? Or do you have thoughts rushing in your head? Do you have negative thoughts about your sports performance? Maybe you now dread the sport you use to love. Athletes face anxiety every time they walk on the court or the field. Some athletes have to work harder at overcoming the fear of performance but it can be done.

What is Social Anxiety?

Athletes with social anxiety disorder (SAD) experience fear of being watched, judged, or even letting their team down. SAD is one of the most common mental disorders in the general population.

What are the symptoms of Anxiety?

Athletes that suffer from anxiety disorders can have both emotional and physical symptoms.

Some Emotional Symptoms:

  • Anxiety about being embarrassed or humiliated
  • Fear of letting team and coaches down
  • Fear of upcoming games or athletic performances
  • Fear of being judged negatively
  • Fear that others will notice the anxiety
  • Attempts to avoid performing (i.e. pretending to be sick or injured)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping

Some Physical Symptoms:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Trembling hands
  • Muscle tension
  • Racing heart
  • Numbness or “pins and needles on arms and legs
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Treatments For Anxiety

Anxiety can be treated medically, with psychological counseling, or independently. Ultimately, the treatment path depends on the cause of the anxiety and the patient’s preferences. Often treatments will consist of a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medications.

Sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the individual that treating the anxiety disorder must wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control.

A photo of a woman squeezing a stress ball

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