Did you know that you can get addicted to exercise? It’s possible to get addicted to almost anything, and addicts will have withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get enough of their “hit.”
Even though people laugh about being addicted to the gym, this is a bad thing. Too much exercise will lead to alack of sleep, poor immune system, and overall exhaustion. It’s important to get enough rest between sessions to look after your overall health.
The downside of exercise addiction is that you can’t just stop like alcoholics or drug addicts should. You can’t just cut it out completely and go cold turkey. We need to exercise to remain healthy and strong!
But how do you know if you are an exercise addict? What are the signs of exercise withdrawal anxiety? Here’s a look at everything you need to know about this condition. With the signs, you can then get the treatment you need to exercise safely.
Are You an Exercise Addict?
Let’s start with a look at exercise addiction and whether you have it. There has been a study in Europe, looking to addiction to exercise. To start the study, around 600 participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire to find out about their exercise habits and the way they view exercise.
Those who were deemed to have addiction symptoms viewed exercise as the most important thing in their life and let exercise conflict with things in their life. They would let down family and friends to make sure they could exercise. They would also increase the amount of exercise they did, viewing that the lower level was never enough. Most addicts would exercise at least once a day, but others exercise much more frequently.
However, it wasn’t just about the amount of exercise carried out. The addicts also had a different mental component to their need to exercise. If they didn’t exercise, then they believed that they had a bad day. Exercise addicts will have the opinion that exercise helps to solve all problems.
This is a similar mindset to alcoholics, drug addicts, and other types of addicts. The view is that the one item will make everything better, solving problems and making them happier.
The difference with exercise addicts is that deep down they don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong. While alcoholics and drug addicts will know deep down that they’re doing something bad (they just don’t want to admit it), we’re constantly told that exercise is good for us. We’re told that we need to do more to boost the happy hormone release and build strong bones and muscles. Exercise addicts don’t always realize that they have a problem.
There’s a Fine Line Between Exercise Addict and Exercise Fan
There are plenty of people who enjoy exercise. They find something that they love doing, which helps to boost hormones and improve weight loss efforts. While they can feel lethargic after a long day at work, they like the way they feel after a workout.
You may be one of those who has a gym bag in the car, so you’re always ready when you decide to go to the gym. You look forward to a spin class on a morning or plan with a friend to go jogging one weekend.
There is certainly a fine line between exercising healthily for fun and being an addict. Those who are addicts will usually shift plans if they don’t get their planned exercise in. They will find a way to fit it into their day, even if it means missing a birthday meal or skipping that lunch date. Some can even affect their work deadlines because they are too busy in the gym. They just don’t see that they’re doing anything wrong because their exercise makes them feel good.
Like with other addicts, exercise addiction will affect the people around you. Your friends and relatives won’t know when they can meet with you. They’ll have no idea if you’re going to cancel plans at the last minute. It can stop them making plans with you and getting frustrated that they never see you.
Those who enjoy exercise tend to be competitive, but exercise addicts take their competitive too far. They will be competitive even if they’re ill or injured (or have no care that other people are ill or injured). They can be extremely pushy, constantly talking about how they’ve still not beaten a personal best or constantly asking others about their personal best to see what the next milestone is to reach.
Managing Family and Life Is Difficult
It’s not just the competitiveness or canceling plans that make things awkward for others. Managing family life becomes an issue for couples. Women who are exercise addicts tend to be underweight. They don’t have periods on a regular basis. While they may want children, they will find it much harder to conceive than others since their periods are irregular and difficult to track.
Some women will fear what pregnancy will do to their body, putting them off having children. They don’t want to gain weight or must give up their favorite exercise, viewing pregnancy as the end of the world.
This can even cause a problem if you decide to adopt. You can’t stick to adoption appointments and meetings because you’re too busy in the gym. Social workers view you as unreliable and unable to look after children.
Everything becomes about the addict’s wants and needs. The rest of the family is often overlooked, which can lead to thebreakdown of relationships and friendships.
The Body Is Negatively Affected
Exercise addiction also affects the body negatively. While exercise is important to keep the muscles and bones strong, the body will still need a rest. The problem with the addiction is that the person is focusing too much on the benefits they feel like they gain. They focus on the positive mood, ignoring pain or tiredness.
Most addicts are prone to injury. They can suffer breaks that can lead to other health problems. They can become exhausted.
Injuries and illnesses are the worst things that can happen in an exercise addicts worse. All they think about is the lack of training they get to do. They want to know when they will be back on their feet to continue with their plan. They can end up so focused on returning that they come back early and make their injury or illness worse.
Exercise Withdrawal Anxiety Is a Real Thing
People who don’t get to exercise when they want can become extremely anxious. They may plan a vacation that involves no time to fit in a workout at all. This leaves them nervous, as they try to find a way to fit it in anyway. Some addicts will get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later, despite the tiredness, just to make sure they fit in at least one exercise. Even if they’re doing something active, they will find a time to do their usual exercise routine!
The idea of not getting in a workout will leave their palms sweaty. They don’t even take real rest days. Those rest days will involve some exercise, whether it’s a hike, a walk, or a jog. Some will just walk in circles if they can’t do an exercise routine due to travel or other restraints.
Some exercise addicts can have panic attacks or will be extremely irritable when they don’t get their exercise in. They believe that the lack of exercise is the reason for their bad mood. This is the anxiety setting in.
There’s a view that they will get ill if they don’t exercise. The exact symptoms and fears can depend on the reason the exercise addiction started.
Some exercise addicts will have turned to exercise to get over another addiction. They’ve just replaced one addiction for another. They feel like they will go back to their original addiction if they don’t get to exercise, which can leave them nervous and irritable.
There are those who develop an addiction during weight loss attempts. They can lose hundreds of pounds and then develop an addiction because they’re so worried about putting that weight back on. They don’t want to go back to the way they used to be and fear that it’s only the exercise that is stopping them.
Some of the symptoms are very like other addictions and other anxieties. Irritability and panic attacks are common. However, some addicts can become depressed if they don’t get to fit in the exercise to their schedule.
There are some symptoms that are relatively mild. You may have guilt for missing a class, even if it’s been for a good reason (like being ill). You can feel uncomfortable because you’ve not moved around as much as you usually would. Headaches and loss of appetite are common. Your mental health will affect the way your stomach and brain pass messages between each other.
We also can’t overlook the sleeplessness. Exercise can help people fall asleep. If you suffer from insomnia, this can temporarily get worse. You’re constantly thinking and worrying about how you’re going to fit your exercise into your day. There’s a fear that you’ll gain weight or lose your strength. Stress levels increase until you find a way to tackle the anxiety.
Getting Over Exercise Withdrawal Anxiety Is Difficult
There are people in the world that have tackled exercise addiction and the withdrawal anxiety for years. This is because it’s one of the hardest addictions to get over.
While experts recommend quitting cold turkey when it comes to smoking, drugs, and alcohol, you can’t do that with exercise. Your body still needs some movement and some exercise. You need to listen to what your body is telling you.
At no point should you be fatigued and in pain? These are signs that you’re overdoing it. Exercise should give you bursts of energy. There may be some temporary soreness or tiredness, but it should be the type that disappears after you’ve refueled your body. The temporary feelings are completely normal for muscles that have had a workout.
One of the things you need to do is recognize signs that you’re over training. You need to look out for the tiredness, pain, and constantly feeling under the weather. You need to recognize when you’re putting off time with friends and life for the sake of exercising. It’s important to understand when you’re not relaxing because you feel like you should spend your time better.
It is possible to set up an exercise schedule that is healthy for you. Opt for no more than 60 minutes a day, five days a week. This will give you the exercise that your body needs to help you be healthy and lose weight while getting the two days off that you need.
Use a diary to help jot down your fears and thoughts. When you are on vacation, you’ll need that diary to get out all the feelings that you have about not necessarily working out. On your two days’ rest, make sure you note down how irritable and anxious you feel. While you’re not doing the exercise, you’re acknowledging when you feel bad for not exercising. You can find a pattern, helping you get a diagnosis and get the treatment you need.
A psychologist can also help with treatment. This is the case for any addiction. You have someone who will listen to your fears and help put them into context.
The treatments aren’t going to work overnight. As mentioned, some people have worked for years to get over their addictions, and they’re still not completely cured. It’s an ongoing process. Otherwise you can slip back into old habits.
Changing your mentality, especially over something good for you, is difficult. You must get rid of that competitive streak and focus on putting your overall health first. Find support in friends and family members, and you will find it easier to overcome your exercise withdrawal anxiety.