Research- Fatjoe

Athletes Have Mental Health Too

Performance enhancement drugs, oxycodone, codeine, Vicodin, painkillers, all drugs that athletes have and can become addicted to. Many athletes are often under tremendous pressure to perform at the highest level, and this pressure can lead to the use of PED’s and prescription drugs. While sports promote physical fitness, mental toughness and competition, and while all these things are good, it does not mean that they can always have good outcomes. The consequences of drug addiction can be devastating for athletes, including damage to their health, both mentally and physically, suspension from competition and even legal repercussions. The lure of instant gratification, and to meet the expectations to be able to achieve success will cause athletes to do whatever they feel is needed to achieve these things, no matter what the costs will be.

When it comes to drugs that athletes will turn to, PED’s, or performance-enhancement drugs, are the most common. The most common type of PED that athletes will use is steroids. There are many variations of steroids that athletes can get their hands on. The two main types are corticosteroids and anabolic steroids. The main difference between the two is corticosteroids are more of a type of medicine, that help asthma, allergies and hay fever. While Ana anabolic steroids are the ones that build muscle mass. Anabolic Steroids are the ones most commonly used in athletes and they have always been frowned upon in the sports world because it is seen as cheating, which of course it is. When an athlete, who already trains every day to try to become the best at their sport, uses anabolics, which strengthen muscles and reduces body fat, it impacts your image to the public and other players heavily. Now, there are different types of anabolic steroids and there are different type of ways to use these steroids. Some of the most common versions of anabolic steroids are topterone, oxymetholone and trenbolone, as stated in “Drug Fact Sheet,” which was released by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). This article also states the various ways steroids can be used, “Tablets and capsules, sublingual-tablets, liquid drops, gels, creams, transdermal patches, subdermal implant pellets, and water-based and oil based injectable solutions.”

An example of this is former MLB superstar Barry Bonds. Before he started using steroids, Bonds was already the best player in the MLB, he won two MVPs, which are awarded to the best player in all of the sport, and three Gold Glove awards, which go to the best fielder in all of baseball. Bonds stapled himself as one of the best to do it, but once it was revealed that he was using steroids it prohibited him from making it into the hall of fame. This shows that steroids, or just PED’s in general, can extremely hurt someone’s image. Being in the hall of fame is a massive achievement for athletes of all sports, and even though Bonds was already having a hall of fame career before the steroids, he has still not been able to have the achievement of getting into the hall of fame.

Moving on from PED’s, athletes can also turn to prescribed drugs. The use of prescribed drugs often comes after an injury, a very popular prescribed drug that athletes can become addicted to are painkillers, specifically Vicodin and OxyContin. Athletes will turn to these drugs as a way to help deal with the high level of competitiveness and the levels of intensity that they face. In the article Substance Abuse Concerns for Athletes After Injury, by “Michael’s House”, it states, “Erik Ainge, former backup quarterback for the New York Jets, sat out the entire 2010 football season as he recovered from a pain killer addiction that started after an injury.” Although Ainge was just a backup quarterback, he still fell victim to substance abuse. So it does not matter if you are a star athlete or just a backup, you can still become addicted to a substance all the same.

Athletes that are currently playing aren’t the only ones that can become addicted to prescribed drugs. “Michael’s House” states “In 2009, Sam Rayburn, former defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, was taken into police custody for committing fraud or forgery to illegally obtain a controlled substance. The arrest revealed that he had a painkiller addiction that at its height reached 100 Percocets per day.” Retired athletes can become addicted just as much as athletes currently playing, and in this case, even more. Sam Rayburn admitting that he had taken 100 percocets per day shows how heavily athletes can become addicted.

The pressure to perform at the highest level can push athletes towards the misuse and abuse of performance-enhancement drugs and prescribed drugs, which can lead to addiction and severe consequences. Athletes, whether professional or student, are often viewed as epitomes of strength, resilience and perseverance. However, this perception can be misleading as mental health issues can significantly affect their performance both on and off the field. The pressure to succeed, constant scrutiny and physical demands of the sport can take a toll on athletes’ well-being. Mental health is just as important as physical health and neglecting it can have severe consequences. As we celebrate athletes’ achievements on the field or the court, it’s crucial to recognize that behind the glitz and glamour lies a hidden reality of mental health struggles.

When it comes to mental health struggles in professional athletes, the most common types of illness are stress, anxiety and depression, and these three things can all cause one another. But one of the main causes for these illness’s in athletes is injuries, but not an injury that leaves you out a couple of days or a week, injuries that take away athletes abilities to play for an extended period of time or even end their careers. In the article “The Mental Health of Elite Athletes: A Narrative Systematic Review” by authors Simon Rice, Rosemary Purcell and Stefanie De Silva, the text states “Elite athletes face a unique array of ‘workplace’ stressors… the potential for injuries to end careers prematurely.” The fear of getting injured can take a significant toll on a players mental health, and combine that with the pressure at playing at a high level, can cause an extremely stressful environment that can lead to mental health issues. Moreover, if an athlete suffers a career ending injury it can create many psychological issues. They’re losing their livelihood, they’re losing their ability to do what they are passionate about, and if you want to look at it at the basic level, they’re losing their job for which they have worked so hard to get to.

Although injuries are a common cause for mental health issues among athletes, there is another route that flies under the radar, retirement. The same article states, “There may be subgroups of athletes at elevated risk of mental ill-health, including those in the retirement phase of their careers.” Retiring from professional sports can be a challenging transition for athletes, as they often lose the structure, routine and identity that their sport provided. These losses can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and a lack of purpose, which may contribute to the development of mental health issues. Also, retired athletes can face financial difficulties which can also lead to stress and anxiety.

Mental health and substances can go hand and hand. The easiest substance to obtain for both professional and student athletes is alcohol. Both types of athletes can turn to alcohol for the same reasons, like to deal with pressure. Professional athletes have the pressure to play at the highest level while student athletes have the pressure to play good enough to make it to the next level. If an athlete develops alcoholism it can result in many consequences like performance issues which can result in job loss. The article “Athletes and Alcoholism”, by author Kelly Brown, lists some physical issues, “Decreased strength output, muscle cramps and decreased muscle protein synthesis.” Decreased strength limits the athletes ability to perform at their required level, muscle cramps causes pain and discomfort which limits the athletes ability to move freely and decreased muscle protein causes an athlete to lose their physical abilities.

Along with professional athletes, students athletes can also deal with alcoholism and mental health issues. Both types of athletes can face the same type of pressure but it can come from different directions. For example the pros can face pressure from their coaches, while students can face pressure from the parents, along with their coaches. The same article states, “Student athletes also face a lot of pressure regarding their athletic and academic performance. Some turn to alcohol to deal with stress.” Student athletes often face significant pressure to perform at a high level in both their sport and academics. The pressure to succeed in both fields and cause stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, some student athletes turn to alcohol as a way to cope with these stresses. Drinking alcohol can provide temporary relief from stress and anxiety, but it can also lead to impaired academic and athletic performance, not to mention legal issues if they are under age too. Also, the pressure to live a “college life” can also lead to peer pressure for college athletes. A main theme for being in college is going out to parties and drinking. This can lead to peer pressure for athletes to fit in with their peers. The desire to fit in causes stress and it can lead to athletes to engage in risky behavior like binge drinking and drug use.

To make matters even worse, athletes are hesitant to speak up about their mental health. There are many stigmas surrounding athletes and their mental health, these stigmas range from the difficulty of spotting these issues to the fear of failure and disappointing others. The article “Mental Health in Athletes: Moving beyond the Stigma” by author Allaya Cooks-Campbell, states “Athletes could feel guilty for having poor mental health. They could blame themselves and fear disappointing others by dealing with mental health issues.” Many athletes are conditioned to prioritize their physical toughness and may view seeking help for mental issues as a sign of weakness. Also, since athletes are expected to play at such a high level, it can lead to guilt and shame if they are struggling because they are held to such high standards. Athletes may also carry the fear of disappointing others by admitting that they are struggling, which can create a significant barrier to seeking help. These feelings of guilt, fear and shame can also be very difficult to navigate, which can also deter athletes from seeking support.

It is essential to acknowledge that the pressure to succeed in sports can cause a significant impact on the mental health of both professional and student athletes. While these athletes are often celebrated for their physical powers and ability to perform under pressure, the reality is that their mental health struggles are often overlooked. The pressure to succeed, coupled with the stigma surrounding mental health in sports, can create significant barriers to seeking help and support. From anxiety to depression, these issues can have long-lasting effects on an athletes well-being, both on and off the field.

When it comes to high pressure situations it is common for everyone, not just athletes, to feel anxiety about the situation. In these types of scenarios it is best to stay calm, don’t overthink and narrow your focus to the task at hand. As we know, anxiety can lead to multiple negative outcomes like drug abuse and other mental health issues. So in these situations it would be best not to let the anxiety get too powerful right? Well according to Jesse Singal in the article “Why Olympic Athletes Shouldn’t Try to Calm Down Before a Big Moment,” it is actually better to remain anxious during these high stakes situations.

While Singal suggests that anxiety can be used as a source of energy and motivation for athletes, and just life in general, using your anxiety can have as much negative outcomes as it can positive. Singal states “It’s better, this research argues, to embrace your anxiety.” Excessive anxiety can have negative consequences on performance. When athletes are too anxious it can interfere with their ability to focus and perform well. This can lead to poor decision making and a lack of confidence. Instead of embracing their anxiety, athletes should calm down before a big moment, calming down can help athletes maintain their composure, focus and perform to the best of their abilities.

Singal also argues that trying to convince your body that you are excited instead of anxious, will help you perform better. Singal states “Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School found, in four studies “involving karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance,” that “reappraising anxiety as excitement” led to better performance.” While yes, this can be true, but convincing your body to turn anxiety into excitement is way easier said than done. This strategy can also differ from people to people. Some individuals may benefit from it, but others may find it unhelpful. People have different personalities and experiences which can affect how they respond to to anxiety and other emotions. It is important to recognize that what works for one person may not work for another and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to managing anxiety, Singal fails to realize this.

Singal tries to argue that anxiety and excitement are in the same category, when they are not. Singal states “The contestant who is excited rather than anxious will get the most out of their body during the action of flow.” While this is also true, it also assumes that anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same coin, which is not entirely accurate. While anxiety and excitement share some similarities, they are fundamentally different emotions with distinct physiological and cognitive responses. Anxiety is characterized by feelings of apprehension, fear and uncertainty. While excitement is associated with the feelings and anticipation, enthusiasm and optimism, Therefore it is not clear whether reappraising anxiety as excitement actually leads to better performance or whether it simply changes the way we experience anxiety.

Another approach to anxiety and excitement that Singal states is “Recognizing that you are feeling anxious, and naming the source of your anxiety.” While this strategy can be useful for some individuals, it may not always be effective for athletes in high-pressure situations. Athletes may experience a range of emotions including anxiety, fear, excitement and adrenaline during competition. However, in the heat of the moment, it may be challenging to identify the exact source of these emotions. Additionally, naming the source of anxiety may not necessarily lead to better performance or help athletes overcome their fears or doubts. Instead, athletes may need more comprehensive and targeted strategies to manage their emotions and optimize their performance, such as visualization, goal-setting, positive self-talk or seeking support from their coaches and teammates. While recognizing and naming the source of anxiety may be a helpful technique in some situations, it is not a silver bullet for athletes and should be used in conjunction with other strategies to support their mental and emotional well-being.

The idea that recognizing our tendency to stress more and more intensely is crucial to managing stress as Singal states, “The key to ‘owning’ your stress is to recognize that we tend to stress more, and more intensely.” While recognizing this tendency can be helpful, it is not a comprehensive or universally effective solution. Individuals may have different reasons for experiencing stress, and simply acknowledging their tendency to stress may not address the root causes of their stress. Moreover, some people may have chronic or severe stress that requires more targeted and specialized interventions, such as therapy, medication or lifestyle changes. Also, some stressful situations may be unavoidable or beyond someone’s control, such as job loss, illness or relationship problems, making it difficult to manage stress solely by recognizing one’s stress patterns.

Singal suggests that stress is not inherently negative but rather an adaptive response, as she states in her article, “The evolutionary goal of the stress response was to help boost the body and mind into enhanced functioning, to help us grow and meet the demands we face.” For athletes, stress can be a useful tool to improve performance, but only up to a certain point. When stress becomes excessive or chronic, it can lead to physical and mental fatigue, burnout and injury. Athletes should manage their stress levels effectively and balance the demands of training and competition with rest and recovery. It is also essential to recognize that different athletes may respond to stress differently, and some may be more susceptible to the negative effects of stress than others.

Lastly, Singal says that stress and anxiety is are universal things to feel, as she states in her article, “And it’s as useful for an office worker as it is for an Olympic sprinter.” This is definitely true as we all feel stress and anxiety, but the stressors that Olympic athletes face vs what an office worker may face are vastly different, which ultimately means they will need to use different strategies. For example, an Olympic sprinter will face stressors related to intense physical training and competition, whereas an office worker may face stressors related to tight deadlines and heavy workloads. Athletes may work with their coaches and sports psychologists while an office worker may seek help through employee assistance programs.

All things considered, athletes, both student and professional, are very likely to succumb to the use of drugs. There are a variety of drugs they can use, all of them harmful. Whether they are performance enhancement drugs or prescribed drugs, they can do more harm than good. There is also a variety of reasons that athletes will feel the need to use these drugs. One of the biggest reasons is pressure. Athletes face pressure from many different angles, their coaches, teammates, the fans and even their family members. If athletes turn to these drugs it can cause many problems, not just physical, but mental too. It is very important to acknowledge that athletes can suffer from stress, anxiety and depression just like the rest of us. Athletes are humans too.


Carreathers, Brandon., 2020, “Athletes’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health”

House , Michael’s. Michael’s House Treatment Centers, 17 Nov. 2021, Subsrance Abuse Concerns for Athletes After Injury

Administration , D. E. (2020, April). Drug fact sheet: Steroids. Retrieved April 27, 2023

Mental Health in Athletes: Moving beyond the Stigma. (2022, February 4). Retrieved April 2, 2023,

Brown, K. (2022, December 11). Athletes and alcoholism. Alcohol Rehab Help. Retrieved April 2, 2023

Rice, S. M., Purcell, R., De Silva, S., Mawren, D., McGorry, P. D., & Parker, A. G. (2016, February 20). The Mental Health of Elite Athletes: A Narrative Systematic Review – Sports Medicine. SpringerLink. Retrieved April 2, 2023

Singal, J. (2016, August 4). Why Olympic Athletes Shouldn’t Try to Calm Down Before a Big Moment. The Cut. Retrieved April 26, 2023

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