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Did you know that you could be addicted to exercise?
Addiction to substances is not uncommon. Addiction can be to activities too. You might be dependent on your exercise regime without even knowing it.
Many people disregard addiction to activities because of the popular misconception that people can only be addicted to drugs and substances. If it is not dependency on an opioid, alcoholic substance or an illegal narcotic, it must not really be an addiction.
Yet people can be addicted to activities just as easily as they can to drugs and substances. Activities can release the same level of endorphins as those addictive substances. They can make you feel just as good. As addictive substances, activities have side effects as well. Just as you may feel buzzed after taking morphine, as part of the morphine side effects, you could feel the same after exercising too.
They could also cause you to lose your ability to choose to engage in them. People can be controlled by their desire to engage in activities, just as they may be controlled by their desire to find their next hit. Activities could have a compulsive effect over you, to a point where you no longer engage in the specific activity for fun.
You may be addicted to exercise.
What is exercise addiction?
Addiction to exercise may be the unhealthy, compulsive and obsessive desire to engage in physical exercise regularly. Like other addictions, the dependent person may no longer have the ability to choose not to engage in exercise.
Exercise addiction may arise out of self-esteem issues. Dependency is similar to that experienced in other addictions.
People who are addicted to exercise may regularly obsess over overexercising. They may have been warned before of the dangers of exercising or have a first or second-hand experience of the risk of physical harm. They may often want to stop exercising but may be unable to do so. In some cases, these dependent persons may even exercise in secrecy in order to avoid any confrontation with people who have shown concern over their dependency.
Exercise addiction can mirror other addictions, which revolve around secrecy, lack of choice, a desire to stop and knowledge on the potential risks attached.
How is it caused?
Exercise addiction starts in small doses, much like many other addictions. You may have had a simple desire to stay in shape. You may be visiting the gym as part of your health regime.
Some people may be driven by unhealthy eating disorders, guided by the view that exercise may help them attain certain bodily standards. Body image disorders and eating disorders may also contribute to the development of exercise addiction.
Once you start to exercise, the brain releases dopamine and endorphins. These two compounds are notorious for their ability to make you feel good. They are also the chemical compounds released during physical involvement and drug abuse.
When the person feels good, they are more likely to engage in more and more of the activity in order to feel just as good. As they depend on exercise to feel the effect of these compounds, they develop an addiction to the activity.
Who is most likely to be addicted to exercise?
Like most addictions, not everyone who exercises is at risk of developing addiction. Some people regularly exercise without being driven by a compulsive desire to do so.
People who may be at risk of addiction include people with a previous history of addiction, who may be using exercise to distract them from their earlier addictions.
People who have weight problems or those who may be pressured into staying in shape are also likely to develop an addiction.
How can you tell when you are addicted to exercise?
The symptoms of exercise addiction may vary between persons. However, some basic characteristics of addiction, which also mirror addiction to drugs and alcohol, maybe identifiable.
You may have an addiction to exercise if you feel some withdrawal symptoms after failing to exercise over a period of time. These may include anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, physical discomfort, and guilt. You may also experience a loss of appetite.
You may have an addiction to exercise if you spend most of your time exercising, recovering from engaging in exercise or preparing for your next exercise session. This might be an easy symptom for you to pinpoint.
If you find yourself exercising regularly even after attempting to reduce your exercise schedule, or are not satisfied with exercises that feature reduced regimes, you may be dependent on exercise.
If you are unable to stop exercising, have an uncontrollable urge to exercise, have been told by people around you that you exercise too much or need to keep your exercise a secret, you may have an addiction to exercise.
Can you get treatment for exercise addiction?
Exercise addiction is a major challenge to diagnose. Many people don’t think that exercise addiction is a problem. They are not concerned with getting any help, since exercise is neither illegal nor immoral.
Exercise addiction has also not been classified as a diagnosable addiction as of yet. However, it is easy to identify the addiction patterns in your desire to exercise.
Since it is not classified as a medical condition, self-diagnosis and treatment is important. You will need self-control to overcome exercise addiction, much like any other. The first step is always understanding and admitting that you may have a problem with exercise.
You can try to control your addiction by limiting regimes and hours, or even staying away completely until you feel that you have regained control over the activity.
How can you avoid falling back into exercise addiction?
Exercise addiction can be overcome, much like any other addiction. However, it is important that you maintain self control. You must be vigilant in order to avoid slipping back into your dependency.
You could fill your time with other activities such as art or music, which will reduce any likelihood of falling back into exercise addiction. You may also ask for help from close family and friends.