Posts Tagged ‘disorder’
A Disorder or Just a Symptom?
Exercise is a generally a healthy behavior that promotes wellness. However, some individuals become addicted to physical activity and engage in compulsive, excessive exercise that is extreme in frequency and both psychologically and psychosocially impairing. Exercise becomes the most important priority in the excessive exerciser’s life. All other obligations and responsibilities such as families, careers, and social engagements suffer. This addiction is referred to by a variety of names such as exercise dependence, exercise addiction, obligatory exercise, compulsive athleticism, compulsive exercising, and exercise abuse.
People who are addicted to exercise may have various motivations for their behavior, including a desire to control their body weight or shape, a feeling of inexplicable dread is exercise is not performed, or to achieve an exercise-induced “high.”
Exercise addicts may have a very rigid fitness schedule to which they always adhere. They may compulsively exercise alone to avoid attracting the attention of others, including trainers and gym staff. Addicts will exercise even though they are sick or injured, in the end causing more physical problems for themselves. They may miss work, school, or other social obligations to exercise.
“I do still get the same feelings of distress if I can’t go because exercise is such a major part of my life… I get very very depressed — depression to the point where I can weep and berate myself for not going.”
Seven Warning Signs of Exercise Addiction
1. Always working out alone, isolated from others.
2. Always following the same rigid exercise pattern.
3. Exercising for more than two hours daily, repeatedly.
4. Fixation on weight loss or calories burned.
5. Exercising when sick or injured.
6. Exercising to the point of pain and beyond.
7. Skipping work, class, or social plans for workouts.
What is known is that there are many individuals who suffer from an addiction to exercise. Often they will continue to workout even through the pain of an injury or against the advice of their physician. The psychological torment of not exercising is greater than the negative consequences that affect their physical and social well-being. Often when exercise is withheld, these individuals will experience irritability and depression. These symptoms are relieved by exercising, and thus the cycle is continued. Regardless of the reason behind the excessive exercise, whether or not it is caused by an eating disorder, the effects are harmful to the individuals on psychological, physiological, and psychosocial levels.
While there is an important debate about exercise dependence and eating disorders, it is also important to realize that this is a real addiction that affects real people and real families. Regardless of the cause, more research needs to be done on effectively treating this behavior. Ultimately, the goal is help these individuals overcome this harmful dependence.