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Exercise Addiction

Article contributed by: Claire Best

fatigued running girl
Photo credit: Addiction Treatment Magazine
Any runner will know the thrill of winning a race, running that bit further or improving your time. These achievements are what keep us going. They’re what make us push our bodies that bit further to meet our goals. However, when does this drive and passion turn into an unhealthy obsession? Exercise addiction, although rarely taken seriously, can ruin people’s lives as much as any drug addiction and can also damage the body just as much.

Do I have an exercise addiction?
Exercise addiction is exactly that: an addiction to exercise. Although exercising is a great habit to get into and has many health benefits, as with most things, too much of anything can be detrimental to your health. Over-exercise can cause a number of physical problems, including muscle tears, joint pain and the loss of muscle mass. Amongst women it can even result in the loss of their periods, which can affect fertility. Mentally, being addicted to exercise can take over your life. If exercise is dominating your every thought, disrupting your regular routine and damaging relationships with friends, family and partners, you may have an addiction to exercise. Over exercising often goes hand-in-hand with an eating disorder, for example, Anorexia Nervosa, as the obsessive mentality surrounding numbers and critiquing your body are extremely similar.

How do you treat exercise addiction?

The first step is realizing you have an addiction to exercise. Often, addiction is deceptive and will often cause the individual to be in denial. Therefore, simply by recognizing your behavior isn’t normal is a huge step in the right direction. Once this has been established, visit your doctor. Exercise addiction can be hard to treat because the activity itself doesn’t involve a substance and is usually incredibly good for us. However, your doctor will ask you to refrain exercising for a period of time until your life has achieved some normality and balance again. You may also have counselling to get to the root of the problem and find out why you feel the need to compulsively exercise.

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