Competitive anxiety is a multidimensional state that arises as a result of the cognitive evaluation of a competitive situation. There is a tendency to perceive competitive situations as threatening and to respond to them with feelings of apprehension and tension. Situational factors (such as type of sport or the complexity of the task) and personal factors (such as expectations, achievement of goals, skill level, experience, age) are crucial in the process of evaluation.
Anxiety symptoms can occur before, during or after the event, which can be cognitive (confusion, negative thoughts, irritability, fear, feelings of weakness, poor concentration), somatic (increase in blood pressure and heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, nausea, vomit) and behavior (repetitive movement, aggressive outbursts, inhibited posture, biting nails).
The level of competitive anxiety present in a given situation depends on the degree of anxious personality that the player presents (state anxiety) as well as what are his/her considerations about success. An athlete who feels successful when he/she achieves mastery of a task and he/she judges his/her sporting competition from a self-referential perspective, he/she is task-oriented. While the athlete who judges success in terms of demonstrating superiority over his/her competitors, he/she has an ego orientation. Both motivational orientations influence differently the state of anxiety. The motivational orientation focused on the ego appears as a predictor of increased levels of competitive anxiety, while focusing on task orientation predicts increases in self-esteem levels. The self-esteem state is inversely proportional to competitive anxiety, thus increasing the self-esteem state will decrease the competitive anxiety.