SOURCE: Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

June 19, 2014 09:38 ET

When Is Exercise an Addiction or Healthy Lifestyle Choice?

Individuals With Exercise Addiction Often Struggle With Co-occurring Disorders; 15 to 20 Percent of Exercise Addicted Individuals Are Also Dependent on Nicotine, Alcohol, or Illicit Drugs

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - June 19, 2014) - Exercising on a regular basis is beneficial. It contributes to health and disease prevention and has a positive effect on mental and physical well-being for all age groups. There are instances, however, where exercise becomes an addiction.

"Exercise addiction is a process addiction in which a person engages in compulsive, mood-altering behaviors with the intention of avoiding painful feelings," said Kim Dennis, MD, CEO and medical director of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. "Those addicted to exercise chase the 'high,' and this behavior ultimately becomes unmanageable and destructive."

The prevalence of exercise addiction in the general population is close to three percent, but is higher among ultra-marathon runners and sport science students. Exercise addiction also tends to cluster with food disorders, caffeine use, and shopping. Work addiction is also another co-occurring disorder.

Dr. Dennis adds certain criteria must be met for a behavior to be considered an addiction. Those include:

  • Tolerance: increasing the amount to feel the desired effect
  • Withdrawal: negative effects such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and sleep problems, when exercise is stopped
  • Lack of control: attempts to reduce exercise fail
  • Intention: unable to adhere to intended routine
  • Time: a great deal of time is spent preparing for, engaging in, and recovering from exercise
  • Reduction in other activities: social, occupational, and/or recreational activities are reduced
  • Continuance: continuing despite negative physical, psychological, and/or interpersonal consequences

Individuals with exercise addiction often have food disorders, caffeine use, and other process disorders such as work and shopping addiction. It is not unusual for them to experience depression, trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. In addition, individuals with eating disorders often engage in excessive exercise. It is estimated that 39 to 48 percent of people suffering from eating disorders also suffer from exercise addiction.

"As with many addictions, dependence on exercise can start innocently," adds Dr. Dennis. "The individual often receives validation or reinforcement for exercising. Once an individual is hooked, a need to achieve the euphoric state eclipses all else. Work, family, and social life frequently take a back seat to the necessity of exercising. If deprived, we see withdrawal symptoms just like you would with any other addiction."

Treatment is available and recovery from exercise addiction is possible. In time, reasonable, healthy and beneficial exercise can be reintroduced as part of a balanced life.

About Timberline Knolls:

Timberline Knolls is a leading private residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls (ages 12 - 65+) with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. Women and families seeking Christian treatment can opt for specialized Christian-based therapy. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call us at 877.257.9611. We are also on Facebook -- Timberline Knolls, and Twitter -- Timberline Knolls.

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