Diagnosing Emotional Disorders in Athletes: A Sport Psychiatrist’s Perspective

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Ronald L. Kamm Sport Psychiatry Associates, Oakhurst, NJ

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Like the sports medicine physician, the sport psychiatrist plays an important role in the sports medicine team (SMT). A specialist in diagnosing emotional disorders can increase the diagnostic and treatment capabilities of the SMT. The goal of this article is to increase awareness of the psychiatric disorders commonly occurring among athletes and highlight the value of accurate psychiatric diagnosis. Using vignettes involving established athletes, the article examines anxiety and mood disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and attention deficit disorder as they occur in athletic settings, as well as other syndromes with particular relevance to athletes, such as overtraining and postconcussion syndrome. Other clinical issues encountered while working with athletes, including learning disabilities and career termination concerns, are also discussed. Finally, the basic concepts of transference and countertransference are reviewed to highlight important relational dynamics between the athlete and the SMT.

Ronald L. Kamm, MD, is the Director of Sport Psychiatry Associates in Oakhurst, NJ. He is also Vice President of the Fighter’s Iniative for Support and Training (FIST) in New York. E-mail: rlkamm@mindbodyandsports.com.

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