Compulsive Exercise

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What is compulsive exercise?

Often referred to as anorexia athletica, obligatory exercise, and exercise addiction, compulsive exercise can be as severe as other eating disorders. Compulsive exercise often coincides with anorexia or bulimia. Excessive exercise can eventually lead to injury, unsafe weight loss, and even malnutrition.

Signs and Symptoms of Compulsive Exercise

Many times, it can be hard to tell if someone has an exercise addiction or if they are just dedicated to fitness. The following signs and symptoms can help you determine if there is a problem:

  • Engaging in exercise beyond the requirements for good health
  • Exercising that significantly interferes with important activities
  • Striving to achieve and master ever more difficult challenges despite injury or medical complications
  • Intense anxiety, depression, irritability, feelings of guilt
  • Exercising to manage emotions
  • Exercising as permission to eat
  • Defining self-worth in terms of body image and shape
  • Never or rarely feeling satisfied with athletic achievements, pushes on to the next challenge immediately
  • Justifying excessive behavior by defining self as a “special” elite athlete
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

Health Consequences of Compulsive Exercise

Compulsive exercise can be serious and cause real and devastating health consequences such as

  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis)
  • Loss of menstrual cycle in women
  • Chronic joint and bone pain
  • Altered resting heart rate
  • Persistent muscle soreness
  • Increased frequency of illness
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S)

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, we can help you get your lives back on track.

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How We Treat

It can be challenging to find the right kind of support and treatment for compulsive exercise. Our compassionate and caring staff at Toledo Center offers a safe environment that provides healing using evidence-based treatment that includes:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Guided imagery
  • Family therapy
  • Group sculpting