Gaming Mind: How mental health and esports are connected

Mental health and performance. Two different terms, closely linked. In traditional sports, especially when it comes to success and failure, terms like “performance pressure”, “chocking”, or resilience are not new. But what exactly does it look like in e-sports?

Excursus “mental health”

Mental health is subordinated to mental well-being. Good mental health primarily enables us to cope with everyday stresses while recognizing and utilizing our own potential. It is a state that underpins our own personal capabilities. It also influences how we behave collectively with others. It enables us to make decisions, build relationships, and shape the world in which we live [1]. Mental health is experienced differently by each person and, like other dynamic systems, responds to internal and external changes. Factors behind the changes are also called determinants.
These are:

– individual (e.g. neurological limitation due to genetic disposition),
– structural (e.g. in which structure are you located),
– economic (e.g., financial status),
– geopolitical (e.g. I live in a war zone) and
– environmental (e.g. I am threatened by natural disasters)

Depending on the interpretation, these factors trigger different reactions in us. For example, social recognition or economic security, as they occur in gaming through the support and promotion by sponsors and prize money, can strengthen our own self-acceptance and promote mental health. At the same time, however, they can also increase the pressure to perform and expectations. Determining experience and behavior, they are directional for mental health.

Gaming and mental health

‘Creating A world where everybody can be somebody’ is the headline of the Electronic Sports League (ESL). An estimated 380 million people follow e-sports games at least occasionally. Many players start gaming at an early age, mostly in childhood and adolescence. Games are played in the parental home, in a protected atmosphere. Then it goes on from the “children’s room, up to the big stages.” It is not uncommon for gamers to feel overwhelmed by the publicity, pressure and responsibility. In the worst case, players become unbalanced. Mental health deteriorates, and in the worst-case scenario, burnout occurs. The result is a premature end to the career or absence for several months. The latter was experienced by Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, players on the most successful Counter-Strike team Astralis in 2020 [2].

Positive factors affecting mental health

The most important affecting factor here is resilience. According to the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research, this is the ability to “maintain or rapidly restore mental health during or after difficult phases of life” [3]. It is thus less a matter of changing one’s own environment than of learning how to deal with stress. After all, inner resilience is trainable.
Here are a few tips on how to do this:

Tip 1: Keep talking

Mental health is important and should not be taken for granted. Anyone who notices that their mental health is tilting should take action. The first signs can be feelings of being overwhelmed, loss of concentration and performance, as well as physical effects such as sleep disturbances and an elevated resting pulse. Social contact or talking to trusted people not only builds more resilience, it also helps to de-taboo this important topic in the future.

Tip 2: Keeping perspective

E-sportsman* as a main profession. A dream come true for many. No reason not to think about the future and the time after the e-sports career. Insofar as better conditions are created for a new career path, the more relaxed one can also deal with failures. Even if one’s own expectations were not met at that moment, at least one’s own existence and financial security need not be feared.

Tip 3: Keep balanced

“A healthy mind in a healthy body” was already said by the Roman poet Juvenal. It was to prove right. Only those who take good care of themselves, eat well, get enough restful sleep, exercise and stay in balance will remain mentally strong. But maintaining this balance also means a certain amount of self-assessment. Players who have a high need for balance and equilibrium should not take their cue from other team members. They need to find out for themselves how strong their own resilience is.

Negative factors affecting mental health

In addition to the many advantages offered by e-sports, there are unfortunately also numerous factors that negatively influence the mental health of players. As discussed in the e-sports podcast “unmuted”, decisive stressors here are above all criticism and stress within the team and high expectations of oneself.3 High expectations of oneself and the willingness to subordinate everything to success. This is also shown by the example of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, Swedish League of Legends player. At the beginning of his career, he played 16 hours a day for precisely this reason [5].

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. As published on in October 2021, the case of two Rocket League pros who made racist and homophobic comments to a fellow player became public. The evidence was provided by the victim and Rocket League pro Eli himself [6]. In addition to discrimination by fellow players, there are also reports of scandalous behavior by key decision-makers such as TSM’s majority shareholder Andy Dinh. He exhibited disparaging and harassing behavior toward professional players and TSM employees [7].

In addition to the social influences mentioned above, health factors also play a decisive role. As already mentioned, nutrition, sport and sleep are main players in physical as well as mental health. If too little attention is paid to all of this, or if they are even neglected, health is at risk. Here it makes sense to get support in the form of trainers, nutritionists, physiotherapists, etc., in order to receive individual and needs-based advice.

Current research

The team regularly works intensively on large-scale projects with the AOK Rheinland/Hamburg to jointly attract more attention from the general public and to launch new health standards and preventive measures in esports. On 31.01.2023, the latest research results were presented at the German Sport University Cologne. This time, the focus was on mental health and resilience. You can read the result report under the following link: eSport Study 2023 – Result Report [only in German available]


[1] World Health Organization (2022). Mental Health. Available at: [19.04.2023]

[2] Zeit Online (2020). Astralis zieht Notbremse: CS:GO-Spieler klagen über Burnout. Available at: [19.04.2023]

[3] Leibniz-Institut für Resilienzforschung (o.D.). Was ist „Resilienz“. Available at: [19.04.2023]

[4] Yannic Hannebohn und Caspar von Au (2020, 16. Juni). Burnout im Esports: Astralis verändert die Szene #17 [Audio-Podcast]. In unmuted – Esports Podcas. Funk. Available at: [19.04.2023]

[5] British Esports (2016). Keeping fit and healthy: Exercise, sleep and dietary advice for esports players. Available at: [19.04.2023]

[6] (2021). Rassismus-Eklat um Esport-Profis: Spieler müssen mit Strafen rechnen. Available at: [19.04.2023]

[7] Greeley, C. (2022). Competitive Ruling: Andy Dinh. Available at: [19.04.2023]