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Signs and Symptoms

5 Warning Signs of Compulsive Over-Exercise Behavior

Staying active is a key part of maintaining health and happiness for all of us – and certainly something we want to instill in our children. As parents, however, it important to recognize when your child is taking their desire to be active and get regular exercise too far.

Oftentimes, there is a connection between compulsive or over-exercise and eating disorders. In fact, a study by Brewerton found that nearly 40 percent of patients with anorexia also engage in compulsive exercise behaviors. Usually, the connection between excessive exercise and eating disorders stems from food-, body- or weight-related issues that drive the excessive physical activity.
Below are five common warning signs of compulsive exercise behaviors:

  1. Exercising excessively "just because" as opposed to intentional exercise in preparation for a competition.
  2. Refusing to miss a workout, regardless of weather or injury.
  3. Exercising takes precedence over all other activities, including work, school and spending time with friends and family.
  4. Experiencing a heightened level of anxiety if unable to engage in exercise.
  5. Displaying an elevated rigidity and perfectionism with regard to exercise behaviors.

Treatment is available to address compulsive exercise, occurring either alone or alongside a diagnosed eating disorder. If you suspect that you or a friend or family member may be struggling with compulsive exercise, please seek a complete medical evaluation.

Dr. Bakshi is a Board certified adult psychiatrist who specializes in adult and adolescent psychiatry, group therapy, and consultation psychiatry at ERC Washington.

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