Exercise Addiction

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Exercising is undoubtedly good for you. Not only does it keep your body in shape, but it also has a positive effect on your mental health since it improves your self-esteem and simply makes you feel good because knowing that you’re working on improving or maintaining your figure causes your brain to release endorphins. However, unless done moderately, even the things that are good for you, such as exercising, might end up harming your health.

It might surprise you, but in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), exercise addiction falls under a behavioural addiction.

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There are three main types of disorders that are associated with excessive exercise:

  • Body dysmorphic disorder causes an individual to become obsessed with their body parts to the point where they perceive them odd or different which causes them to target those body parts by creating exercise routines to work on and improve the body part they perceive to be odd.
  • Anorexia athletica or obligatory exercise causes an individual to feel compelled to exercise, even beyond the point that benefits them. It causes a person to work out and take part in athletic activities despite injury, illness or pain.
  • Exercise bulimia causes an individual to have multiple binge eating sessions that are then compensated for by numerous high-intensity exercises.

Those that go through exercise addiction can often experience overtraining, which causes their exposure to excessive levels of stress that are caused by physical exertion. The overtraining comes with one or more symptoms, such as decreased motor coordination, weight loss, insomnia, elevated resting heart rate, decreased force production, persistent muscle soreness and more.

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There are several different signs and symptoms that may define exercise addiction. Those symptoms can help you identify whether you or someone else is suffering from it.

  • Tolerance: as an individual continues to exercise, they will progressively increase the amount of endorphins required to feel content and accomplished by their workout routine.
  • Withdrawal: an individual will experience various adverse effects, such as restlessness, anxiety and irritability if they are unable to exercise.
  • Lack of control: an individual is unable to reduce the intensity of the exercises or abstain from exercising for certain periods of time.
  • Time: an individual spends excessive amounts of time on either preparing for exercising or engaging in the activity.
  • Reduction in other activities: an individual is less likely to partake in other recreational or social activities and would prefer exercising instead.
  • Continuance: an individual continues to exercise despite being aware that exercising is causing them psychological or physical problems.

Treating Exercise Addiction

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Depending on the severity of the addiction, exercise addiction can have many negative effects on a person’s life, as they will quite often put exercise above injuries, work, friends, and even family members.

The first step in treating exercise addiction is self-control. The individual needs to realise that they have a problem and begin taking steps in order to control exercise activities. Other measures may include putting a limit on the time or intensity of your workout routines and abiding by those rules while also taking enough time to let your body recuperate.

There are various studies nowadays that research exercise addiction, which is especially important for those that are unable to exert self-control and should instead seek professional help and ask for their doctor’s opinion and treatment.