What is Exercise Addiction: Signs, Facts and Causes?
Making exercise a big part of your life is fantastic. It is mind-boosting and has multiple beneficial effects on our mind, body, heart, and liver. The fact that it can be hazardous to us seems preposterous. But when your ‘want for exercise’ overpowers your ‘like for exercise’, that’s when addiction strikes. In this article, we will explore the signs, facts, and causes of exercise addiction, as well as some useful prevention strategies.
What is Exercise addiction?
Exercise addiction, also known as a compulsive disorder or obligatory exercise, is a condition where an individual becomes excessively and compulsively focused on exercise and unable to resist doing it. For those with exercise addiction, working out is the happiest time of their day. An exercise addict gets hooked on the idea of staying fit, and ultimately, this causes significant physical and psychological damage along with eating disorders.
Signs That You Have Exercise Addiction
2.1 Your Workout or training comes before your health
You no longer have a balanced workout program that gives you time to rest and recover. To make matters worse, you hardly eat anymore. The days when you started working out to stay fit and only to maintain a healthy lifestyle are long gone. You are not afraid of working out even when you are sick or when your body aches to stop.
2.2 Your Workout and responsibilities part ways
The compulsion to exercise interferes with your normal life. You cut back from the other essential elements of life. You get a sense of satisfaction only by pushing yourself harder and more. Over time, it takes over your ability to perform better professionally. You can no longer find yourself meeting deadlines because your energy is already drained out in the gym.
2.3 You evaluate yourself based on your workout
You attach your self-worth based on your physique. Having a fitness goal isn’t fundamentally wrong. But when you look at yourself only from the perspective of how much progress you make in achieving your fitness goal, you fill yourself with hatred, anger, and disgust, upon not achieving it. Your life centers around the gain you make at your gym which leads to depression and agitation, to cling onto your life.
2.4 Exercise is an escape for you
Exercise is surely a way to combat depression and anxiety and give you that ‘feel good factor’. But you feed your addiction more and more when you run away from uncomfortable emotions or situations in your life that are brought upon you. You no longer take advantage of the benevolence that exercise has to offer to reduce stress or to have a balanced mind, you rather consider it as an escape.
What causes exercise addiction?
The actual causes of exercise addiction still need to be completely understood and can vary from person to person. An exercise addict feels joy during or immediately after exercising. This is due to the neurotransmitters endorphins and dopamine. These chemicals are released while exercising. Someone who has this addiction feels the need to exercise more and more to trigger these chemicals.
Mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, or any disorder, can play a role in the development of exercise addiction. Social pressures, such as the fitness culture in one’s social circles or exposure to images of idealized bodies in the media, can contribute to addiction. Furthermore, in some people, using exercise as a way to cope with past trauma or ongoing stress can escalate into exercise addiction.
A Few Consequences of Excessive Exercise Addiction
Excessive addiction to exercise can have profound negative consequences on both physical and mental health. Here are a few consequences that you should know:
- Physical Health Deterioration: Overexercising without adequate rest and recovery can lead to physical injuries and chronic conditions. Musculoskeletal injuries like stress fractures, muscle strains, and joint problems are common. Additionally, excessive exercise can weaken the immune system, making the individual more susceptible to illnesses.
- Mental Health Issues: It often co-occurs with mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. It can lead to an unhealthy addiction to body image and weight, fostering low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction.
- Social Isolation: Excessive exercise can result in the neglect of social and familial relationships. Individuals may withdraw from social events, compromise work or academic responsibilities, and isolate themselves to prioritize their workouts.
- Hormonal Imbalances: Prolonged and intense exercise can disrupt hormonal balance in the body and potential fertility issues in both genders. These hormonal imbalances can have long-term health implications.
Recognizing these consequences is crucial in addressing this problem and seeking professional help to establish a balanced and healthy relationship with physical activity.
When to Seek Help?
Seeking help for exercise addiction is essential when your commitment to exercise becomes obsessive and negatively impacts your physical and mental well-being. Warning signs include neglecting responsibilities, constant injuries, excessive exercise to cope with emotional issues, or severe anxiety when unable to work out. If you notice these symptoms or concerns from loved ones, consult a mental health professional, therapist, or counselor specializing in addiction and disordered eating. Early intervention can prevent severe health consequences and help you establish a healthier relationship with exercise.
How to Prevent Exercise Addiction?
Preventing exercise addiction is crucial for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Here are some strategies to avoid developing an unhealthy relationship with exercise:
- Set Your Goals: Establish fitness goals that align with your physical and mental well-being. Avoid setting unrealistic or extreme objectives.
- Balance Exercise with Rest: Ensure you have sufficient rest duration in your exercise routine to allow your body to recover. Always listen to your body’s signals and prioritize rest when needed.
- Diversify Your Interests: Explore and engage in various activities and interests outside of exercise to maintain a well-rounded life.
- Seek Professional Help: If you suspect this situation, consider seeking help from a health professional or counselor who could help you recover.
- Educate Yourself: Comprehend the signs and symptoms of exercise addiction so you can recognize it in yourself or others.
- Surround Yourself with Supporting Network: Have fun and interact with friends and family who encourage a healthy balance in life and exercise.
Exercise addiction hasn’t yet been recognized as a mental health disorder. Nevertheless, its consequences are still devastating. Therapy has proved to be an effective way to overcome compulsive disorders and to alter negative thoughts into positive ones. Remember, exercise should enhance your life, not consume it.