Compulsive Exercise Disorder, aka anorexia athletica, is when a person becomes addicted to exercise. It is often difficult to detect whether someone is getting healthy exercise, or has become obsessed or addicted to exercise. This article will help define exercise disorders. (Yates 1473-1480)
Also known as compulsive activity disorder, obligatory exercise, or anorexia athletica, compulsive exercise disorder occurs when a teen is addicted to exercise. Although compulsive exercise disorder can be hard to distinguish from healthy athleticism, it is important for family and friends to know the warning signs of compulsive exercise disorder in teens so they can help teens who are affected by it get help.
Exercise has many positive benefits for teens. It helps them strengthen their body and mind, avoid obesity, and keep a positive mood. When a teen becomes addicted to exercising, however, it can have negative consequences for their body and mind. (O'Dea 273-278)
Because many healthy teens enjoy exercising or sports, and may train hard to stay in shape, it can be hard to recognize compulsive exercise disorder. There are some signs that a teen has crossed from healthy exercise to compulsive exercise, such as if he or she:
•No longer enjoys exercising, but instead seems to feel forced to do it
•Plans his or her life around exercising
•Gets angry or upset if his or her exercise routine is interrupted
•Gives up other fun activities to exercise or withdraws from friends
•Has trouble being still, or fells like he or she always has to be moving
•Keeping careful records of the amount he or she exercises, and obsessing over doing more or better
•Is never happy or satisfied with a performance or accomplishment
•Always seems fatigued
•Neglects schoolwork or responsibilities
•Loses an extreme amount of weight(Lejoyeux 353-358)
When the human body engages in healthy, strenuous exercise, the blood levels of the neurotransmitters classified as endorphins rise noticeably. This occurs for a number of reasons, among them to dull the ordinary pain of exercise, but it also serves to give the body a psychological reward for activity. When an individual becomes apparently dependent upon the "reward" chemicals that result from exercise, the result is a behavioral condition called exercise compulsion, or anorexia athletica. (Hausenblas 387-404)
Obviously, this does not equate exercise to drug use. Exercise is good for the body, so long as one does not take it beyond an extreme. The main difficulty that arises in cases of compulsive exercise is not physiological, as with drug use, but rather psychological. Exercise can, in some individuals with this compulsion, become a force that shadows out all others in their lives, taking the place of social relationships and other pursuits. In most respects, it takes on the symptoms of most other forms of addiction. Any question of the individual's habits, or anything that hinders them is met with defensive behavior; habits are understated to hide the severity of the individual's need.
There are good medical reasons for the likeness of compulsive exercise to addiction. The endorphin rise brought on by repeated, strenuous exercise gives ...