When Exercise Becomes an Addiction

exerciseAddiction is an awful disease that needs to be monitored throughout a person’s lifetime, even when they’re seemingly in control of it. Some of us might have been personally affected by addiction issues related to alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs or gambling, or have had to step in to help a loved one who might be fighting an addiction. For some of us, the problem is limited to what we read in the newspapers or online, with supermarket tabloids, in particular, obsessed with celebrities and their issues with addiction. The reporting seems to take on a sympathetic stance, but borders on voyeuristic glee over something that really is a private problem, whether it’s the usual suspects such as Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan, or even the squeaky clean star Zac Efron who quietly entered a rehab facility in early 2013 to fight certain problems with drugs and alcohol. Not all addictions seem to be unhealthy, and when someone exercises frequently and vigorously, isn’t it a good thing? It’s possible to go too far, and in certain cases, develop an addiction to sport and exercising.

Body Image

When someone’s view of their own body takes a dangerous turn, we often see this manifest itself as anorexia or bulimia, and given the widespread knowledge of these conditions, we often know which warning signs to look for in friends and family members, although recovery is never an easy feat. While the causative factors for eating disorders and issues with body image are complex, they can sometimes spring from unlikely places. The island nation of Fiji was a relative newcomer to televisions, with most households not owning one until the mid 1990’s. Before this, the Fijian concept of a good body was someone who was well fed, even overweight, which was seen as a sign of health and prosperity. After viewing American TV shows previously unseen by the general population, this image of a good body shifted to the American ideal seen in Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210, that of a lean, athletic person.

Exercise and Endorphin’s

While attempting to emulate the slender figure of a celebrity (who can far more easily access nutritionists and personal trainers than the rest of us) can be a contributing factor to eating disorders, it can also encourage excessive physical activity, as a person tries to get the athletic physique sported by their idols. Just as a lack of physical activity can be greatly unhealthy, excessive physical activity can also be detrimental to a person’s health, although it’s less easy to spot. Exercise releases endorphin’s into the bloodstream, which is why, despite the fact that we’re usually physically drained after a good workout; we can also feel a kind of “high.” It’s possible to become addicted to this high and to attempt to feel it again and again through sport and exercise.


Signs and Treatment

Like with any addiction, exercise becomes a problem when it consumes a person’s life. A fixation with achieving the perfect body at the cost of work and personal life can be indicative of low self-esteem presenting itself as a sport or exercise addiction. This addiction becomes particularly dangerous when coupled with an eating disorder, as the individual is simply not getting enough nutrients to sustain their bodies, let alone the immense amount of exercise they’re inflicting on themselves. A calm approach is required, and it can be tackled in the same way that any addiction can be, through conversation and even therapy or counselling. It’s important to stay fit, but it’s also important to remember that it’s possible to go too far. Sometimes taking a walk, watching a game, or wearing your favorite NFL apparel is more than enough.


This is a post by health expert, Anita. She enjoys reading, eating and cooking healthy or doing a fair bit of exercise. She is also a writer for Higher Click, currently writing on behalf of Macy’s.

Author: Joan Evans

Joan Evans is a mental health specialist and has a great interest in personality disorders. In her spare time she likes to go to the woods with her golden retriever, Leroy, and write fiction.

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