Personality Disorders and Mental Health in Competitive Sports

Part 2: We continue with a review of Mental Health and now focus on the intersection between personality disorders and competitive sports. Normal personality is defined as the characteristic pattern of behaviour and mode of thinking that determines a person’s adjustment to the environment. The style of ones thoughts, one’s behaviour and attitude are key determinants. For sports personalities these are critical areas of concern because apart from the “normal populace” there are factors in their environment which could predispose to change in thinking, behaviour and attitude especially in the instances of gravitating moves from lower economic ladders and the projection into the international space.

Personality includes the intellectual ability, emotional re-activity and the attitudes or motives acquired in the process of growing up.

Personality can be defined by the presence of symptoms noted since adolescence, stability over time despite the mood fluctuations; manifesting the same way despite different environments and recognizable to friends and acquaintances. With this in mind then we may pose and ask; what then describes abnormal personality?

(WHO 1978), describes abnormal personality as deeply ingrained maladaptive pattern of behaviour, which is continuing for most of one’s adult life, but in some instances become less obvious in middle or old age. Personality is thus deemed abnormal in the imbalance of its components, quality and in the expression of its total aspects. Due to the expression (or amount of what is expressed) a person or others suffer and there is adverse effect on the individual or the society.

There is need to have those in competitive sports undergo thorough personality tests to determine their personality health. This mitigates against future occurrence of issues triggered by personality conditions. When personality is not Okay, individuals suffer (and this include those of us in the competitive sports arena); by having trouble in the working place, the field or the diverse sporting areas and often work and perform below capacity. A major concern is that the social relationships are markedly absent or disrupted. Though individuals may seek help on medical or surgical grounds, the issues are often centred around underlying emotional distress. They may elicit strong negative reactions in their physicians or health care providers ending up not getting necessary help. Individuals undergoing personality challenges have been noted as presenting with a low tolerance to stress and thus at the moment or instance that they get subjected to some pressure they may end up suffering too much. Some coping behaviour may emerge out of this. These may include psychotic drugs use and alcohol dependency. Further noted suicidal ideation may emerge.

The personality disorders presents in three main clusters; the Cluster A, the Cluster B and the Cluster C. Individuals in the entertainment industry, politics, sports and the glare of public life often may be found with personality issues within the cluster B of histrionic and narcissistic personality. Some key markers and concerns here may include tendency towards mood disorders marked by depression or over excitement and the desire to want attention. Individuals in this group are also prone to death through suicide and display an ambivalent attitude at times. The sporting and competitive world of athletes, golfing, mountaineering which often comes with major financial gambles is a stress evoking environment and may lead to fully blown personality disorders. Thus expert help is necessary for all and is actually available.

Join us next time as we unpack ‘Mood disorders’.

Sign up for the MSA Program https://portal.msa.co.ke/register

Rev’d. Dr. James N. Mbugua PhD

MSA Positive Psychology Expert.

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