Pathological Exercise is a symptom associated with other eating disorders and it can also be its own disorder. It results from a brain chemistry imbalance that causes a compulsion or need to exercise far beyond what is healthy or safe.
What Is Pathological Exercise?
For some people this may have started as exercising for fitness, fun, stress relief, or weight loss. At some point it morphs into a life-threatening addiction. Pathological Exercise can go unnoticed because it is easy to admire someone who is extremely dedicated to their sport. In reality, Pathological Exercise goes far beyond “dedication” and becomes a disease that takes over someone’s life.
Pathological exercise may serve as a conscious or unconscious mood regulator; a type of anxiety, stress or anger management; and an addiction-like “escape” from reality.
Symptoms of Pathological Exercise
Sometimes individuals experiencing Pathological Exercise are aware of their distorted beliefs about how much exercise is necessary, yet they are unable to control their behavior. The individual may even believe that his or her exercise is normal or appropriate and not understand why others are concerned.
- Obsessive and intrusive thoughts about exercise, such as thinking about exercise while trying concentrate on something else
- A desire to exercise or inability to stop exercising even when exercise is not appropriate, such as during a meal or while watching a movie
- Exercising instead of sleeping or being unable to sleep due to thinking about exercise
- Exercising instead of going to work, school, or other responsibilities
- Exercising even when injured or sick, or told to rest by a medical professional
- Emotional distress or feelings of guilt or shame when unable to exercise
- Over-reaction when exercise is interrupted, such as rage, violence or self-harm
- Sneaky behavior such as lying about exercise, exercising in secret or in the dark, or joining more than one gym or fitness center in order to hide the amount of exercise
- Intense fear of missing or refraining from exercise or taking recommended rest days or refusing to rest appropriately between workouts
- Insisting that exercise is healthy even when it is clear to others that it is not, for example when someone has stress fractures, tendinitis or other overuse injuries
- Continuing to exercise beyond unequivocal mental or physical limits, such as while crying, vomiting, bleeding or fainting
- Exercising even when exercise is potentially unsafe, such as running outside during a lightning storm or leaving a child alone in order to exercise.
Pathological Exercise does not have its own medical diagnosis, therefore it is categorized as an “Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder.” Don’t think that this means that Pathological Exercise is not a “real” disease. Pathological Exercise leads to injury, disability and death and should be viewed seriously and treated without delay.
Recovery From An Eating Disorder
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible. It's happening every day at Remuda Ranch at The Meadows. For additional information about the treatment of eating and anxiety disorders, please call to speak to an Intake Coordinator at 866-390-5100 or complete the form below and we will contact you with the information you need.