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Blurred lines: Performance enhancement, common mental disorders and referral in the U.K. athletic population

Roberts, Claire Marie; Faull, Andrea L.; Tod, David


Andrea L. Faull

David Tod


© 2016 Roberts, Faull and Tod. Through the awareness-raising efforts of several high-profile current and former athletes, the issue of common mental disorders (CMD) in this population is gaining increasing attention from researchers and practitioners alike. Yet the prevalence is unclear and most likely, under-reported. Whilst the characteristics of the sporting environment may generate CMD within the athletic population, it also may exacerbate pre-existing conditions, and hence it is not surprising that sport psychology and sport science practitioners are anecdotally reporting increased incidences of athletes seeking support for CMD. In a population where there are many barriers to reporting and seeking help for CMD, due in part to the culture of the high performance sporting environment, anecdotal reports suggest that those athletes asking for help are approaching personnel who they are most comfortable talking to. In some cases, this may be a sport scientist, the sport psychologist or sport psychology consultant. Among personnel in the sporting domain, there is a perception that the sport psychologist or sport psychology consultant is best placed to assist athletes seeking assistance for CMD. However, sport psychology as a profession is split by two competing philosophical perspectives; one of which suggests that sport psychologists should work exclusively with athletes on performance enhancement, and the other views the athlete more holistically and accepts that their welfare may directly impact on their performance. To add further complication, the development of the profession of sport psychology varies widely between countries, meaning that practice in this field is not always clearly defined. This article examines case studies that illustrate the blurred lines in applied sport psychology practice, highlighting challenges with the process of referral in the U.K. athletic population. The article concludes with suggestions for ensuring the field of applied sport psychology is continually evolving and reconfiguring to ensure that it continues to meet the demands of its clients.


Roberts, C. M., Faull, A. L., & Tod, D. (2016). Blurred lines: Performance enhancement, common mental disorders and referral in the U.K. athletic population. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(JUL),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 27, 2016
Publication Date Jul 13, 2016
Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue JUL
Keywords common mental disorders, referral, athlete mental health, sport psychology consulting
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This document was first published by Frontiers.


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