With all of the advances in technology and fitness, it’s easy to get caught up in doing the most in an attempt to eat right, shed unwanted pounds or even maintain the beautiful skin you’re in. After all, there’s a fine line between living the fit life and developing an eating (or even an exercise) disorder, experts say.
What is exercise addiction?
Believe it or not, while exercise is mostly seen as a healthy habit – even crucial for areas of recovery from certain types of addiction – when dedication evolves into compulsion, it can be both physically and psychologically damaging. However, it’s rare, says exercise addiction expert Heather A. Hausenblas, PhD, who states that an estimated 0.3% of the total U.S. population are at risk of developing one of two forms of the fitness infatuation.
- Primary exercise addiction: Where the physical activity in itself is the gratification
- Secondary exercise addiction: Physical activity is secondary to an eating disorder and used to control and manipulate weight, research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, says.
What distinguishes the everyday gym enthusiast from someone addicted to getting in a high-impact sweat session?
It’s not the time invested but the motivation behind the urge to train that experts say is very telling. Someone suffering from the addiction may display withdrawal symptoms like anxiety or irritability if he or she skips just one training session. Physical activity is a means of feeling normal; self medicating.
Other symptoms include:
- Inability to reduce or stop despite injury or illness
- Interference with work, school and social activities
- Sleep disturbance in the absence of exercise
- An increase over time to chase the feeling of “calm” or a “buzz”
- Emotional sensitivity, difficulty concentrating, reduced self-esteem