The relationship between coping profile and Axis-I psychiatric morbidity in athletes

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Athletes are continuously stressed by rigorous training and championship pursuit. Anxiety and depression are common morbidity among competitive athletes that can lead to using either maladaptive methods of coping.


Our study examined the relationship between Axis-I psychiatric disorders and the common coping processes and strategies used by athletes.

Materials and methods

A total of 101 athletes were recruited from sporting clubs in Cairo and Giza cities during the competition season. The Coping Processes Scale, the General Health Questionnaire, and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-Clinician Version (SCID-CV) were applied to all participants.


High General Health Questionnaire scorers used helplessness/self-blame and denial more than low scorers with statistically significant difference (P=0.022 and 0.025, respectively). Athletes with Axis-I morbidity used emotion-focused coping than others without morbidity with significant difference (P=0.000), especially using helplessness/self-blame (P=0.000), and emotional discharge (P=0.009). Depression pertained to using cognitive problem-focused strategies (P=0.046), while depressive disorder, not otherwise specified, was linked to lower use of positive reinterpretation (P=0.017) and higher use of acceptance (P=0.031) and denial (P=0.001). Generalized anxiety and panic disorders were associated with lower use of seeking information and social support (P=0.028). Athletes with social phobia less commonly used positive reinterpretation (P=0.001), and those with specific phobia highly used behavioral emotional focused coping (P=0.018), particularly using helplessness and self-blame (P=0.042).


Athletes with psychiatric morbidity at the time of competition were more inclined to using negative emotion-focused coping like helplessness and self-blame, and emotional discharge, and were less apt to use cognitive-focused coping like positive reinterpretation and seeking information and social support than athletes not suffering from psychiatric disorders; this calls sports psychologists and trainers to offer adaptive cognitive and emotion-focused coping techniques to decrease stress and morbidity.

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