Sport’s psychiatry and psychotherapy

It is well known that physical exercise and fitness have positive effects on the cardiovascular system and physical well being. For some years we have known that sport has a positive effect on the brain, the mind and mental health problems. Physical exercise results in an increase of growth factors for the nervous system, which in turn enables nerve cells to function better and for longer periods. In humans who exercise on a regular basis the average onset of dementia is later and the course of the illness less progressive. In some anxiety and depressive disorders physical exercise is highly effective, similarly to medication that is used to treat these disorders. Further, the efficiency of psychotherapy is enhanced. Physical exercise and fitness result in improvement of mental well being and help patients not to relapse.

In spite of all this athletes can develop mental health problems. They have learned, often utilising methods of psychology in sport, to push their physical boundaries and thus ignore signs of exhaustion and limitations. As a result they are prone to develop depressive illness including burnout or the syndrome of ‚over exercise’, anxiety disorders, eating disorders or substance abuse or dependency. Psychiatry and psychotherapy in sports can result in treatment and a better recognition of mental well being and challenges to these; other than psychology in sports that often focuses only on improvements of sports achievements. To achieve this we use a variety of psychiatric, neurological, psychotherapeutic, psychosomatic and psychopharmacologic methods, all of which are adapted to the physical situation and needs of the athlete.

From its constitution Prof. Pajonk has been a member of the Section Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Sports (Referat „Sportpsychiatrie und -psychotherapie“) of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Nervenheilkunde – DGPPN) and the Network for Sport’s Psychiatry and PsychotherapyANSPP“. He is an acknowledged expert both with regards to the effects of physical training on mental well being and the treatment of athletes. In relapse prevention and treatment of mental illness our work acknowledges the importance of well-placed physical exercise.