About Anxiety in Athletes

Anxiety in Athletes was developed by the International OCD Foundation and the Mental Health Awareness in Sports special interest group to reduce the negative impact of anxiety and OCD in sports.

Meet the members of the Mental Health Awareness in Sports SIG below!

Tom Smalley, MS, CSCS

Tom Smalley, MS, CSCS is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association living in New York, NY. He has masters degree in exercise and sport science from Merrimack College. He was diagnosed with OCD in 2014 at the age of 16 and shortly after became passionate about spreading awareness about what OCD really is in an effort to break down the wall of stigma around the mental disorder and mental health in general. Tom was the recipient of the 2019 IOCDF Hero Award. Tom speaks at the Annual OCD Conferences along with different schools around the northeast. He has also appeared on a variety of blogs and podcasts as well. A topic Tom is particularly passionate about is athletes and OCD and how it affects performance along with the stigma of mental health in sports. 


Brad Balukjian, PhD

Brad Balukjian, PhD is a professor of biology at Merritt College in Oakland, California, and is in a long-term relationship with his OCD. Brad has Pure O, scrupulosity, and somatic OCD, and has benefited tremendously from exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. He wrote a book, The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball's Afterlife, in which he tracked down all the players in a single pack of 1986 baseball cards. Unexpectedly, the book included a discussion of OCD as Brad found common ground with professional athletes on the role of fear and anxiety in their lives. He sees enormous potential for athletes struggling with anxiety to benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Annie Christman

Annie grew up in southern New Hampshire and competed as a level 10 in the USAG Junior Olympic program before joining the varsity gymnastics team at Brown University. While facing mental health challenges, Annie found solace in other athletes who spoke up about their experiences. Through studying English (nonfiction) and psychology at Brown, she came to appreciate storytelling as a means of healing and connection. When she’s not reading, writing, and rearranging words, she’s likely curating indie-pop/alternative playlists or spending time outside. She is a co-founder of Galea Health.


Jessica Kieras, PhD

Jessica Kieras, PhD is a licensed psychologist in the state of Oregon, working primarily with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety and OCD, using evidence-based methods. She grew up swimming competitively at an elite level, competing in the U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals while in high school and at the NCAA Division I level for Texas A&M University. She has recently completed a handful of marathon and channel swims including the Catalina Channel (20 miles), length of Lake Tahoe (21 miles), END-WET (36 miles), and several others. She is passionate about supporting other athletes on their performance goals and writes about her swimming experiences in her blog, oregonlakebagging.wordpress.com.

Rachel McMahon

Rachel grew up playing volleyball and running track in New York. Since middle school, Rachel has turned to athletics to release stress and cope with mental health challenges outside of athletics. She walked onto the Brown track & field team as a long-jumper her freshman year of college and was a co-captain of the women’s team her senior year. Her own lived experience with mental health challenges and internalized stigma inspired her to seek out ways to support athletes and destigmatize mental health. She concentrated in Global Development and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude from Brown University in 2019. Hobbies include: getting sunburnt and attempting to surf. She is a co-founder of Galea Health.


Katie O'Dunne

Rev. Katie O'Dunne graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory with her master of divinity and certificate of religion & health in May 2015. She has spent the last five years serving as the academy chaplain and the Pauline and R.L. Brand Jr. '35 Chair of Religious Studies at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. There, she seeks to inspire students of various faiths to develop a sense of empathy through respectful, ecumenical dialogue by teaching religious literacy. Katie hopes to develop programs to encourage a deeper understanding of mental illness within diverse religious communities, while fostering positive, collaborative relationships between religious practitioners and mental health providers. She also helps to inspire those struggling to live joyfully, as she seeks to do through running, triathlon, and kitty snuggles.

S. Evelyn Stewart, MD

Dr. S. Evelyn Stewart is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and a clinical and neuroscience researcher. She is a professor of psychiatry in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia and is founding director of the BC Children’s Hospital Provincial OCD Clinic and Research Program in Vancouver, Canada. She has authored over 100 original papers, reviews, and chapters on family, clinical, and treatment aspects of OCD throughout the lifespan. 


Cali Werner, LMSW

Cali Werner, LMSW’s clinical interests focus on OCD, athletes’ repetitive and ritualistic performance inhibiting behaviors, anxiety and performance, and mental health stigma. Cali received her bachelor’s degree from Rice University where she also competed as a Division I collegiate distance runner receiving a national honorable mention in track. Cali received her masters degree in social work with a specialization in OCD from Baylor University. Cali continues to pursue distance running and competed in the Olympic Trials for the marathon in 2020. Her current research of OCD and athletes coincides with her love for running. Cali is dedicated to raising awareness and speaking on behalf of those with mental illness by educating, and providing resources and hope. 

Robin Zasio, PsyD, LCSW

Dr. Robin Zasio, PsyD, LCSW is a licensed clinical psychologist and licensed clinical social worker who has been specializing in treating OCD and anxiety disorders for the past 20 years. She developed The Anxiety Treatment Center of Sacramento, Roseville, and El Dorado Hills, as well as The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center and The Compulsive Hoarding Center, all located in Sacramento, CA. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Board, Clinical Advisory Board, and the Speakers Bureau for the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), and is a faculty member for their Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) traveling the nation providing education to clinicians who are learning to treat anxiety disorders. In 2010, she developed OCD Sacramento, an Affiliate of the IOCDF with the goal of providing additional resources to the community who may not have the financial or other resources to access information or treatment.


About the International OCD Foundation

The mission of the International OCD Foundation is to help everyone affected by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders to live full and productive lives. Our aim is to increase access to effective treatment, end the stigma associated with mental health issues, and foster a community for those affected by OCD and the professionals who treat them. The International OCD Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization. Founded in 1986 by a small group of individuals with OCD, the Foundation has grown into an international membership-based organization serving a broad community of individuals with OCD and related disorders, their family members and loved ones, and mental health professionals and researchers around the world. We have affiliates in 25 states and territories in the US, in addition to global partnerships with other OCD organizations and mental health non-profits around the world. To learn more about our resources, visit iocdf.org.

Runner about to start a race
Thomas Smalley Stretching an Athlete
Soccer players kicking a ball