When Being Tough In Sport Can Negatively Impact On Your Mental Health #BITESIZE

When Being Tough In Sport Can Negatively Impact On Your Mental Health #BITESIZE

Amy Izycky is a Clinical Psychologist and a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist specialising in Neuropsychology. She graduated from Durham University with an Honours degree in Psychology and a Masters of Science in Developmental Psychopathology. She later went on to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Newcastle University and more recently completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Neuropsychology at Glasgow University. Amy trained with the North East Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists (NEAPP) to achieve her Psychodynamic Psychotherapy registration. She represented Durham University as a high-performance rower competing at National level.

Amy has a well-established private practice in the North East of England. She specialises in brain injury, sports related presentations and adjustment to injury and disability. She works with a variety of international and professional sports people who present with mental health difficulties and struggle to adjust to injury and retirement. She has written for peer reviewed journals, academic texts and The Guardian.

Amy’s forthcoming book: Skewed to the Right: Sport, Mental Health and Vulnerability was released on 31 May 2021 where she interviewed high performance athletes and shared their stories offering psychological analysis and interpretation of sporting presentation and culture. Stories include that of Graeme Fowler, Ex England Cricketer and Jack Rutter, Ex England Cerebral Palsy Football Captain. She explores how and when sports people may be more vulnerable to developing mental health difficulties. In conversation with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Paralympian, and Ruth Walczak, Ex GB Rower, Amy explores how we may start to think about eliciting a cultural change.

Book: Skewed to the Right, Sport, Mental Health and Vulnerability

Ideally, we’d be able to recognise the need for toughness when we train and play sport and be able to switch it on and off as we please.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case as Clinical Psychologist and author, Amy Izycky, confirms when she talks about how extreme versions of toughness, mental toughness and resilience can be counter-productive.

In today’s short BITE-SIZED episode taken from episode #065, Amy and I go on to discuss the word “Toughness” where we weigh up the pros and cons of being tough in a sporting environment and how our personality traits can then seep into our lives and impact our mental health.

Key Learning Points:

  • Some sports take pride in promoting themselves as “tough” sports where only the strongest physically and mentally can survive.
  • Sport teaches us certain personality traits such as focus, commitment, discipline and aggression which can be very positive traits, though taken too far they can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health.
  • Being able to switch anger and aggression on and off in sport is a skill which can be difficult to master.
  • Extreme versions of toughness and resilience can be damaging on a person’s life.
  • Clinical psychologists are interested in supporting athletes who operate at the extreme end of needing “control” or the extreme versions of ”toughness”.
  • Sports Psychologists are concerned with optimising performance and proactively maintaining and enhancing psychological wellbeing.
  • As a Sports Psychologist we are able to identify if there are any mental health concerns which link to anxiety, depression, eating disorders and addiction.  We then signpost onto mental health specialists such as clinical and counselling psychologists.
  • It’s important to do your homework when gaining support for your mental health or sporting mindset to ensure that the practitioner is suitably qualified and accredited to organisations such as the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Connect with Amy Izycky




BOOK: Skewed to the Right, Sport, Mental Health and Vulnerability

Connect with David Charlton

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To listen to relevant podcast episodes that link to mental health

Ep015: Nick Grantham – Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery

Ep065: Dr Amy Izycky – Encouraging Mentally Healthy Cultures in Sport

Ep092: Dr James Hegarty – ACT in Sport, Improving Performance through Mindfulness

Ep113: Polly Brennan – The Relationship Between Mental Fitness, Mental Health and Mental Toughness

Ep138: Nick Littlehales – Why do the Mentally Tough see Sleep and Recovery as Important

Other Useful Resources linked to Mental Health

Blog – Make Better Decisions to Help Your Sport Performance

Blog – 5 Ways to Create a Psychological Safe Sporting Environment

Blog – 3 Tips to Deal with Bullying in Sport

Blog: How Mentally Healthy is Your Clubs Sporting Environment

Blog: Using ACT and Mindfulness to Improve Your Sporting Performances



Also, kindly consider taking the 60-seconds it takes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes, they’re extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show and we read every single one of them!

David Charlton

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Global Sports Psychologist who is located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK and willing to travel Internationally.  David also uses online video conferencing software (Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp) on a regular basis and has clients who he has supported in USA, Canada, South America, UAE, Australian and New Zealand.  

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub.  With over 10 years experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, quickly. 

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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