Do you arrange life around exercise or the other way around? Do you exercise to avoid negative feelings? Do you exercise because you feel you have to? Do you exercise to avoid stressful situations? Do you exercise to boost feelings of low energy?
You could be at risk for an exercise addiction. This condition, also referred to as exercise dependence, obligatory exercising, exercise abuse, and compulsive exercise, has no formal diagnosis within the scientific community, yet there are real-world symptoms and consequences to an exercise addict’s daily life and both short- and long-term health.
The Haywire Heart offers a frank discussion of exercise addiction and its affects on the heart health of athletes. Pick up The Haywire Heart to read the whole chapter, especially if you score highly on the quiz below.
Test for exercise addiction
Take this quiz, the Exercise Addiction Inventory (EAI) developed by Mark Griffiths, a British psychologist from Nottingham Trent University, who specializes in addictive behavior. This screening tool is brief, reliable, and has been validated by subsequent testing.
How did you do?
To be considered at risk, one must score at or above 24 out of 30.
Please take a minute to consider what your score means. Do you need help? Maybe your friends and family can help you decide–they are often first to notice.
While many athletes consider their exercise addiction to be a healthy and positive habit, too much training can inflict a wide variety of consequences on your physical and emotional well-being, your personal relationships, and your career. According to Duncan Simpson, PhD, an Associate Professor of Sports, Exercise, and Performance Psychology at Barry University, research has found that when exercise addicts seek mental health counseling, there is often an underlying issue that drives the addiction, like depression, anxiety, vocational dysfunction, relationship disharmony, and/or psychosomatic problems (Veale, 1995). Diagnosing exercise addiction is relatively easy, but treatment requires addressing the underlying issues.
Start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician to ask for a referral to a sports psychologist or a mental health counselor. Before you see your doctor, read The Haywire Heart for a review of exercise addiction and for a full description of how athletes should prepare to talk to their doctors about the possible heart conditions that may accompany an addiction to exercise.
Exercise addiction is not a joke. Consider sharing this quiz with your friends to make sure their relationship with sports is a healthy one.