HomeHealth articlesdepressionWhat Is Meant by Depression and Burnout in Athletes?

Depression and Burnout in Athletes - An Overview

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Depression and burnout have become a common occurrence in athletes. Read the article below to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Neha Rani

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vipul Chelabhai Prajapati

Published At June 20, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 17, 2023


Sports persons or athletes are known and appreciated for their strength, focus, and endurance. However, many athletes quietly struggle with depression and burnout, which can harm their health and performance. The demanding nature of competitive sports, high expectations, intense training regimens, and the pressure to perform can contribute to depression and burnout. It is crucial to identify mental health conditions like depression so that the athletes can be informed about its serious consequences. Burnout can result in extreme fatigue conditions in athletes, eventually leading to a mental breakdown. Hence, knowing these two conditions will help athletes deal with them better and healthier.

What Is Depression?

Depression, a mental disorder, is defined by persistent sadness, despair, and helplessness. It could also be accompanied by a lack of enthusiasm to exercise, which would mean less physical activity.

What Are the Signs of Depression in Athletes?

  1. Performance Issues: Athletes with mental illnesses gradually decline in performance over time. They also show a decline in performance during practice sessions and training. Some athletes, especially those who play team sports, exhibit more hostility.

  2. Fatigue, Sickness, and Injury: An athlete who is depressed is more prone to sickness, fatigue or injury. They may seem to miss more practice sessions than other players. If they try to disguise the issue, they could see doctors more frequently at work or elsewhere. Athletes suffering from injuries or rehabilitation are more likely to experience depression. This might potentially result in an even more extended recovery period.

  3. Reduced Enthusiasm for Activities: Depression makes athletes less motivated to work out. They can arrive late or depart quickly after a training session or competition. They also try to avoid any discussion within the team or any outdoor team activities.

  4. Avoiding Social Interactions: Clinical depression also shows as social withdrawal. Individuals become more reserved than their teammates. There are times when the athlete isolates themselves more. They stay silent even when they are with their friends, family, or fellow teammates.

  5. Personality or Behavior Change: Athletes may show violent or isolated behavior when depressed. Self-inflicting is another trait shown by such athletes.

  6. Concentration Problem: Depression may make it difficult to recall things or focus during practice sessions, competitions, and daily life. It might be difficult for the athlete to communicate or focus on what needs to be done.

  7. Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Depression can alter drinking patterns; some athletes may drink more heavily and frequently. Athletes may even look for a quiet spot to drink, but as alcohol has a negative impact on performance, this might cause problems during training or competition. Another indication that an athlete may be depressed is drug usage. Both alcohol and drug use changes the behavioral pattern of the player along with a decline in their performance.

  8. Changes in Eating and Sleeping Patterns: Depression can also be indicated by an increased appearance of fatigue and decreased concentration. Sometimes the athlete increases the amount they eat on their own, which results in weight gain or loss. Each of these changed habits impacts performance throughout practice and competition.

What is Burnout?

Burnout results from ongoing demands in an activity or sport without a chance for physical or mental recovery or rest. Burnout syndrome is one of ongoing training and sport-related attention tension, which leads to stagnation, excessive training, and ultimately burnout. Athletes who experience continuous stress without the chance to relax and recuperate from such stress are at risk for burnout. For certain athletes, burnout may be the reason for the onset or worsening of a mental health condition that has a detrimental influence on their personal relationships and quality of life.

What Are the Clinical Manifestations of Burnout?

  1. The decline in fitness, including losing strength and stamina and chronic tiredness.

  2. Physiological indicators such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate while at rest.

  3. Cognitive problems include issues with concentration or disorientation.

  4. A weakened immune system causes illnesses.

  5. Emotional problems include a lack of interest, sadness, and irritation.

  6. Due to not meeting the expectations of sport, low self-esteem, increased anxiety, and depression may occur in athletes.

What Are the Contributing Factors to Depression and Burnout?

Several variables influence the emergence of depression and burnout. These include excessive training loads, high-performance expectations, fear of failure, injuries and setbacks, social isolation, lack of work-life balance, and the competitive nature of sports. Additionally, athletes often face unique stressors such as media scrutiny, financial pressures, and losing identity after retirement. Together or as a single contributor, all these factors push the athlete towards mental breakdown.

How Can Depression and Burnout Be Prevented?

  1. Support: To maintain peak performance levels and prevent burnout, coaches, along with staff, should be informed about burnout and consider modifying exercises in terms of intensity and duration. Friends and relatives should encourage athletes to mingle within their group to avoid loneliness and sadness. This will help them to deal with depression.

  2. Rest: The two greatest ways to prevent and manage athlete burnout and depression are rest and taking time away from sports. It is advised to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Many athletes rise early for training and practice, interfering with their sleep cycle. This causes a condition of never-ending exhaustion and puts the athlete in danger of burnout and mental health problems, especially if they believe they have no choice but t devote themselves to the time and effort required for their sports.

  3. Self-Care: Athletes can reduce their risk of depression and burnout by implementing self-care techniques. It is essential to prioritize rest and recovery, lead a healthy lifestyle, set reasonable objectives, build a support system, practice meditation and stress reduction methods, and seek professional assistance whenever necessary. All these help to maintain a healthy mindset for an individual leading to happy living.


Behind the gloss and glamor of performances, athletes frequently struggle with depression and burnout, which are severe problems. By acknowledging athletes' mental health struggles and implementing preventive measures and support systems, we can ensure our support to them. Ensuring both physical and psychological well-being is vital when striving for athletic excellence.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Effects of Burnout?

Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional fatigue (exhaustion) occurring as a result of extreme and prolonged stress. The mental health effects of burnout include the following.

- Fatigue.

- Feelings of depression.

- Emotional exhaustion.

- Depersonalization.

- Anxiety.

- Distress.

- Lack of motivation.


How Long Will Burnout Depression Last?

Burnout refers to a state of complete physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. It might be harder for the person to actively engage in daily activities if experiencing burnout. The people in this state encounter an increased sense of hopelessness. Burnout can cause mental effects like anxiety, depression, and distress. Burnout can last for about an average of three months to one year.


Can Burnout Result in Mental Illness?

People having increased levels of burnout are known to encounter physical, mental, and psychological health problems to a greater extent. Mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and dissatisfaction with life are more likely to be associated with burnout. Individuals in burnout states also have headaches, infections, and sleep disturbances.


Is Burnout Considered Bad for Mental Health?

Burnout is a state rather than a condition. It is a state of physical, mental, and emotional fatigue (exhaustion) resulting from intense and long-time stress. Stress and burnout are considered bad for mental health. The negative consequences of burnout get involved with every aspect of life, including the workplace, home, and relationships. Burnout could result in life dissatisfaction.


How to Heal From Burnout?

Here are some tips to recover and heal from burnout.

- Seek professional help.

- Practice self-compassion.

- Assess the stress levels and practice things to control them.

- Find the source of the problem and avoid it.

- Create a practice of journaling.

- Set boundaries.


Can One Get Anxiety From Being Burned Out?

Burnout occurs in many stages. It causes physical, mental, and emotional symptoms since it is a state of exhaustion resulting from prolonged and extreme stress. Physical symptoms can become more intense, causing headaches, infections, and gastrointestinal problems. If burnout is left unaddressed and untreated, it can influence daily function and subsequently result in depression and anxiety.


How Long Is Required to Recover From Burnout Anxiety?

Burnout affects people in a varied manner, depending upon the cause and severity of the stress. The recovery time from burnout also depends on how an individual experiences the exhaustion and responds to the symptoms. The recovery time from burnout can be between a few weeks and a few years. Anxiety and other problems associated with burnout can take a few weeks to three years to resolve.


How to Fix Anxiety Burnout?

Burnout can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental-related problems. Here are some tips to fix anxiety burnout.

- Recognize the physical signs.

- Identify the source of burnout.

- Seek professional help.

- Get tailored and personalized guidance.

- Practice self-compassion.

- Get the therapies.

- Keep tracking the stress levels.


Can One Ever Completely Recover From Burnout?

Burnout is a kind of exhaustion that involves physical, emotional, and mental states of well-being. Burnout can cause significant health problems, from distress to gastrointestinal concerns, if left untreated. If one ignores burnout, it might lead to a further decline in compassion. It is essential to begin the recovery at an earlier stage. Recovery from burnout is a gradual process that requires time and space to replenish the energy.


Is Burnout a Type of Depressive Disorder?

Burnout is a state that involves depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and decreased personal accomplishment. The symptoms of depression are very similar to burnout. People with burnout do not always have the problem of depression, though depression is a sequelae of burnout. However, burnout might increase the risk of developing depression.


What Are the Lifelong Effects of Burnout?

The life-long or permanent effects of burnout include:

- Depression.

- Anxiety disorders.

- Reduced resilience.

- Extreme fatigue.

- Decreased sleep tolerance.

- Sleep problems.

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Dr. Vipul Chelabhai Prajapati
Dr. Vipul Chelabhai Prajapati



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