Understand your Mind, Focus Better

Sportspersons need to understand their mental health to improve their game focus. This article highlights a story about Immaculate Nangira, a 25-year-old, twice-divorced, woman who has no children, lives alone, and represents the country in International Sport tournaments. She has reported an increase in sadness, crying, social withdrawal and severe self-criticism. She has also reported that she was also binge eat and overuse and abuse laxatives at least once a week. Nangira divorced her first and second husbands and began to develop the said symptoms. The situation worsened until it reached severe levels within a year after the second divorce when she was 24 years.

When she went to see her counsellor, her symptoms included: sadness, anxiety, lack of interest in almost all activities, difficulty in concentration, believing she was worthless and unlovable. She also reported crying, social isolation, difficulty falling asleep, and tiredness. During the first session, she reported that she binged, felt out of control of this behavior, and overused laxatives about once a week. Further she was intermittently preoccupied with a misperception that she was getting fat and was highly self-critical. Since her second divorce she has withdrawn from friends, family, and colleagues in the national team. She has dated several times but each date has been a “one-night stand,” which leaves her feeling rejected and defective. She used to derive significant satisfaction from relationships but has isolated herself and now feels sad, lonely, and rejected by others. She finds it more difficult to engage in Soccer matches and complains that her team manager is tough and uncaring.

Nangira grew up as the middle child of three. From a young age she considered herself ugly. Her older sister was considered thin and pretty while Nangira was called plain and the sharp nose girl. Her younger brother was born 18 months later and received nearly all the family’s attention. She describes her father as being strict, controlling and demanding. She describes her mother as quiet, unhappy, not affectionate, and old-fashioned. Nangira felt unloved and unable to measure up to her siblings. She married for the first time at age 18 years. She reports that she was abused and controlled by her first husband who was violent at times. She believed she deserved the abuse and submitted to his wrath. When she finally got the courage to leave the marriage at 20 years, she did not have her family’s approval and to this day resents their lack of support. She remarried almost immediately at 21 years.

Immaculate Nangira has therefore ended up viewing herself as unlovable and defective as a result of these multiple circumstances. Being the child of highly demanding, critical parents and coming from abusive marriages has laid a fertile ground for possible development of a mood disorder which has been watered by her negative perception of self. This negative self-view has also been activated in the interpersonal relationships with her coach and fellow Soccer players and thus she feels rejected.

For her to function well she has built a wall reinforced by rigid assumptions in which she works hard to have the approval of others; is a perfectionist and has ended up developing negative coping mechanisms for example submission, avoidance and acquiescence. Due to this the International Soccer arena is about to lose a very dependable player to major depression which is a mood disorder complicated further by bulimia nervosa which is an eating disorder.

Next time we look into impulse control and addiction disorders…

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Rev’d. Dr. James N. Mbugua Counselling Psychologist (PhD)

MSA Positive Psychology Expert

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