Most people know that alcohol addicts can go through withdrawal when they stop drinking but a new Danish study shows the same is true for fitness addicts.
The research shows that people who develop an unhealthy need to engage in strenuous exercise have very real withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop.
“If someone who’s addicted to physical exercise is prevented from training, that person will experience withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, frustration and guilt,” says Lichtenstein. “It’s comparable to alcoholism, where withdrawal symptoms play an incredibly large part in the addict’s social life, family life and working life,” said Ph.D. student Mia Beck Lichtenstein from the University of Southern Denmark.
Many people enjoy exercising but exercise addicts take it to the next level. They see exercise as the most important part of life. That can mean sacrificing time with family and friends and exercising every day or even multiple times per day. No matter how much they exercise or how hard they push, they always feel like they have not done enough.
If the fitness addict does not work out enough, it can ruin their day but that is just the beginning. Fitness addicts use a workout to control their mood. For them a workout can fix a bad day. It is a mood regulator just like many other addictions. This causes an unhealthy need to exercise just to feel ok.
Exercise addiction also poses physical threats to addicts. “The fitness addicts are competitive perfectionists so they work out in spite of illness and injuries. But this comes at a price,” says Lichtenstein. “Some women don’t have their periods for several years and it can be difficult to manage family life and a job when you feel the need to exercise for 20-30 hours a week,” says Lichtenstein.
Once someone starts exercising every day at a high intensity, their body is not able to repair itself. It starts to break down and people actually become weaker and more susceptible to injury.
Lichtenstein compares exercise addiction to other process addictions like gambling and sex addiction. Without proper treatment, exercise addiction can take a toll on the addict both physically, emotionally and socially.
To learn more about addiction, check out the Life Works Knowldege Centre.