Can You Have an Exercise Disorder?
Living with a compulsive disorder can be lonely and debilitating. Find a balance with these tips.
In a culture of media obsession and a season of “beach bodies, many people step up their exercise game in the warmer months. But when insecurities arise, some can turn to compulsive exercise to find relief.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, explains some of the reasoning behind this obsessive behavior and how to return to a healthy routine.
Patients can adopt a ‘fix-it’ mentality when it comes to exercise. Though working out can be uncomfortable, not achieving the ‘ideal’ body image is more uncomfortable for individuals who suffer from body image insecurities.
Many people who tend to exercise compulsively also suffer from eating disorders. “People can enter a vicious cycle to achieve what society tells them is a ‘healthy’ look,” says Dr. Bea. Exercise and diet are two objectives that people can control when looking for a way to manage anxiety and stress. The problem arises when individuals begin exercising for extended amounts of time each day, and restricting their eating habits.
Some individuals turn to compulsive behaviors to try and cope with discomfort in their lives. So it can be hard to regulate their lifestyle to a balanced level, explains Dr. Bea.
“I suggest finding a therapist that specializes in various psychotherapy tactics,” Dr. Bea offers. “Finding a trusted professional to help modify your regimen to an appropriate level will help you work through concerns of gaining weight or losing your ideal body shape.”
And if you suspect that a friend or a loved one is suffering an exercise disorder? Start with gaining their insight on their exercise habits instead of sharing your opinion first, Dr. Bea advises. “Acting as an authority over the individual can cause them to be more defensive,” he explains. “If you are receiving lots of pushback, suggest your friend or loved one to talk to their physician.”