Can a person be addicted to what is perpetually recommended by most practitioners in the health and medical field? The answer is clearly yes. Just as when a person is addicted to substances or other processes, the common denominator being compulsion and dependency. Exercise addiction usually does not demonstrate the hallmarks typically associated with an addict's lifestyle, such as poor health, disorientation, criminal behavior, etc. On the contrary, this type of addict often appears the epitome of physical health, and runners are particularly susceptible.
According to the American Running Association, the slide from commitment to compulsion can be slow, but one of the first signs is when exercising wins out over sharing time with family, work, interacting with others, or just plain resting and sleeping. The exercise addict does not acknowledge injury from workouts, and fatigue from pushing their bodies beyond what is healthy. In truth they are no longer exercising for health, but for the “fix” they get when they exercise. For them there is no benchmark or goal that is reached, the only motivator for them is the word “more”. In true addictive behavior, they overlook the warning signs their bodies are giving them; they become irritable and anxious, suspicious that someone will interfere and pull them away from the source of their fleeting but consuming satisfaction. There is denial about the reasons why they are really exercising. There is a total blind spot about how unbalanced their lifestyle has become even though they are engaged in what is supposed to be such a “healthy habit”.
The release of beta-endorphin in the body after intense exercise or the “runners’ high” is not the culprit as many would think, but psychological factors such as perfectionism, over-achieving and low self-esteem are found in many individuals who become addicted to exercise.
If you recognize yourself in this brief description, especially if you then deny that it applies to you, go through the following checklist developed by Dr. Sharon Stoliaroff. Honesty is key when reviewing this list, and if you answer yes to three or more of these scenarios, then your next move should be to seek a qualified mental health practitioner to help you restore balance to your life. Hypnosis as an adjunct to therapy can provide stress relief, and aid in maintaining an accurate perspective on just how much exercise you truly need.
Volume 18, Number 6, Running & FitNews. The American Running Association
Expert in traditional and alternative areas of hypnosis, subconscious behaviorist