Mental Health & Performance

Mental well-being can be thought of in terms of a spectrum. We can fluctuate or move along this spectrum over time based on multiple factors including stressors, personal situations, and life events. In this section, you will find signs and symptoms of common mental health disorders as well as indicators of when extra help is needed. These are medical conditions for which effective treatment is available. Visit our support page if you or a friend are experiencing these symptoms.

For items that can help understand your wellbeing and aid in achieving a desired mental state, check out our videos, articles and stories.


Negative Body Image

A distorted (negative) body image is an unrealistic view of how someone sees themselves and their bodies. Our perceptions of our bodies are molded through multiple means and over a long period of time beginning in childhood, through peers, parents, coaches, teammates, and society.

Negative Body Image and Eating Disorders

Body image concerns and eating disorders can connect with one another. It can be the early dissatisfaction with a young person’s appearance, a triggering event that occurs, statements or teasing from others that can lead them to believe losing weight will fix the dissatisfaction with their appearance. They believe this will help them feel better about themselves and their bodies. Thus, restrictive eating and/or over exercising are sometimes the result. Patterns of disordered eating and weight obsession can develop into anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating or binge eating disorder.

Athletes and Body Image

As athletes, we are often told to put on muscle, lose weight, get fit, put on weight, and/or make a weight class, these messages can be overwhelming and all consuming. It can be hard to separate these thoughts from what your body needs to function at a high level as an athlete.

Signs & Symptoms of Disordered Eating

Someone suffering from an eating disorder may reveal several signs and symptoms, some which are:

  • Chronic dieting despite being hazardously underweight
  • Constant weight fluctuations
  • Obsession with calories and fat contents of food
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food
  • Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking
  • Depression or lethargic stage
  • Avoidance of social functions, family and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn
  • Switching between periods of overeating and fasting



As athletes in grade school, high school, and/or college we push ourselves to be the best, we train hours and hours on end to achieve our goals. Sometimes we work for our goals, do everything asked by our coaches, eat healthy, get enough sleep and still fall short. Sometimes we may do everything yet get in our own way, worry about failing instead of believing in success. What we say to ourselves can greatly impact our performance. Managing stress instead of allowing it over take us can greatly impact performance. Every athlete has their own rituals, their own mindset that helps them perform when they need to and every athlete sometimes has doubts, fears, and/or anxieties about their performances. It doesn’t matter if you are a world record holder or someone fighting to make the travel team everyone can gain by working on themselves.

Having strategies in place and working with a therapist to find what strategies work best for you in high-pressure situations can make a difference in achieving your goals. These strategies can also be very helpful with academic performance and learning to manage the nerves and anxiety that may be present.


Everyone goes through times when they feel down, tired, sad, or alone. However, when these emotions last for long periods of time or make it difficult to complete necessary daily tasks, you may be struggling with depression. Depression affects mood, thinking, and behavior. Depression is different for everyone, and everyone experiences it in their own way. For many college students, the stress of moving away from social support networks, increased academic expectations, family issues, and/or financial difficulties, among others, may be triggers to depression.


Student-athletes face the added stress of balancing high performance expectations with rigorous academic expectations. Athletes must find time to complete their classwork while training several hours per week, Athletes have many protective factors to help minimize the effects of depression, however when depression hits, it can be harder for athletes to reach out for the help they may need.

Below are some signs and symptoms of depression. This list does not include everything as people experience depression differently.

There is help available if needed. (See

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
    • A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
    • You don’t care anymore about former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes
    • Significant weight loss or weight gain – a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep Changes
    • Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping.
  • Anger or irritability
    • Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy
    • Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing
    • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior
    • You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems
    • Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains
    • An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.


Some anxiety is a normal part of life. Anxious feelings may arise when faced with a problem while with friends, when taking a test or completing an assignment, or when making an important decision. Anxiety disorders are more than temporary worry or fear. When a person has an anxiety disorder, the thoughts and feelings often linger and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as performances in school or in sport, in friendships or other relationships, and in other important areas of a person’s life. There are many different types of anxiety disorders and talking to someone about it can help a person to better understand what is happening.

As mentioned there are many different types of anxiety disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health does a great job of explaining signs and symptoms of several different types of anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face several anxiety-related symptoms.

  • Symptoms:
    • Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
    • Being easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension
    • Difficulty controlling the worry
    • Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom.

  • Symptoms:
    • Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear
    • Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack
    • Intense worries about when the next attack will happen
    • Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past

Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social anxiety disorder (sometimes called “social phobia”) have a marked fear of social or performance situations in which they expect to feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others.

  • Symptoms:
    • Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them
    • Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
    • Being very afraid that other people will judge them
    • Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
    • Staying away from places where there are other people
    • Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends
    • Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
    • Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around