Can You Be Addicted To Exercise?

While exercise is an important part of a wholesome lifestyle, it can create negative consequences when practiced in excess. If someone has an exercise addiction, they may compulsively engage in extreme physical activity regardless of the negative impacts it has on their health and well-being.

This type of behavior is also referred to as exercise dependence or compulsive exercise.

Exercise addiction can be unhealthy if it becomes a person’s primary focus and begins negatively affecting their work, social, and family life. When someone is addicted to exercise, they may feel shame, guilt, or anxiety when they do not exercise. They may also choose to exercise even when suffering from an illness or injury.

Symptoms And Signs Of Exercise Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has no specific diagnosis for exercise addiction; however, it is often classified as a behavioral addiction.

People suffering from this condition are often unaware that their engagement in physical activity is a problem, so it is important to be aware of the physical and psychological signs and symptoms.

Some common signs of exercise addiction include:

  • Spending disproportionate amounts of time planning, engaging in, and recovering from exercise routines.
  • Continuing exercise regardless of exhaustion, illness, or injury.
  • Having feelings of guilt, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability when unable to exercise.
  • Frequently giving up social or occupational activities for exercise.
  • Using exercise as a coping mechanism to distract from feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Obsessing over creating and meeting exercise goals.
  • Engaging in excessive exercise duration, frequency, or intensity to attain a rush or high feeling.

A valid diagnosis usually involves a combination of symptoms and an assessment of their impact on a person’s overall life.

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Exercise Addiction And Individual Susceptibility

Factors contributing to exercise addiction vary, including psychological, societal, and biological elements.

People who struggle with certain conditions can be more susceptible to exercise addiction. Some of these conditions include:

Societal pressure to maintain a specific body type can push a person to strive for unsustainable fitness levels and engage in unhealthy exercise behavior. With the progression of social media and the desire to look “perfect” on camera, people often aim to achieve a certain look. This goal can lead to an unhealthy fixation with exercise.

Research suggests biological factors may also play a role in exercise addiction. Those with a family history of addiction may be more vulnerable to developing this addiction due to genetics.

Remember that these factors are not mutually exclusive and that addiction to exercise is often the product of a complex interaction of multiple components. Moreover, addressing the root cause of any addiction is a vital part of maintenance and treatment.

Treatment For Exercise Addiction

Treatment for exercise addiction can include a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and psychotherapy to address the root cause of the addiction and encourage a healthier relationship with exercise.

Methods to help treat exercise addiction include:

  • Seeking help from a mental health professional who can diagnose and treat exercise addiction.
  • Reducing the frequency and intensity of exercise routines.
  • Setting reasonable goals and following a balanced exercise.
  • Engaging in alternative activities unrelated to exercise, such as finding new hobbies or socializing with friends.
  • Utilizing mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing.
  • Seeking support from loved ones.
  • Receiving medication from a psychiatrist or primary care physician.

While exercise is typically considered a healthy behavior, it can create negative consequences when done in excess and can negatively impact many areas of an individual’s life. It is crucial to seek professional care before serious injury occurs. A common method of treatment is to seek help from a licensed therapist who can help you understand the underlying cause of the addiction and help develop healthy coping strategies to deal with and manage the addiction.

If you are struggling with an exercise addiction, explore your online therapy options today.

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