Online Exercise Addiction Treatment: Find Exercise Addiction Recovery Today

An exercise addiction is a compulsion to engage in very regimented and intense exercise routines and an inability to stop.

An exercise addiction is a compulsion to engage in very regimented and intense exercise routines and an inability to stop even if you become ill or injured. 

If you have this addiction, you find yourself obsessed with fitness, how your body looks, and with setting physical goals. You might hold your exercise regime as the central activity in your life, at times even forfeiting relationships, social interactions, and your actual health in the name of changing how your body looks or upping your level of physical fitness. 

You may treat your body more like a machine that you need to keep pushing rather than as something to be tenderly cared for.

What is Exercise Addiction, or Compulsive Exercise?

Many people try to improve, lose weight, and get healthier by exercising, and most can do so without exercise interfering with their personal and professional lives. However, there are some people who develop habits, obsessions, or addictions to overexercising. An addiction happens when something begins to interfere with a person’s daily responsibilities.

An exercise addiction, or compulsive exercise, typically causes a person to have an abnormal, unhealthy relationship with exercise and fitness. A person with an exercise addiction typically won’t stop exercising even when they become ill or injured. 

Like other addictions, behaviors and obsessions are common in people with an exercise addiction. Those with an exercise addiction have an abnormal amount of thoughts regarding their fitness, how their body looks, and in setting physical goals. Often those with exercise addictions struggle from various eating disorders. According to NCBI, “approximately 39-48% of people suffering from eating disorders also suffer from exercise addiction.”

Some traits of exercise addiction include a person:

  • Obsessing over fitness
  • Engaging in their behavior even when they are being harmed
  • Continuing in their behavior even when they want to stop
  • Hiding their behavior in secret

Symptoms of Exercise Addiction

If you have exercise addiction, you may experience these common symptoms:

  • A person may feel an uncontrolled desire to exercise
  • A person may feel high or buzzed after exercising
  • A person may feel withdrawal symptoms if they can’t exercise for a period of time
  • A person may eliminate other important activities to make time for exercising
  • A person may be spending a long period of time preparing for and/or recovering from their exercise
  • A person may be unable to stick to a smaller exercise regimen

How is Exercise Addiction Diagnosed?

What distinguishes a gym enthusiast from a person who is addicted to exercise? Does an elite or professional athlete in training have an exercise addiction? According to Hausenbias and Downs modifications to the DSM-IV TR criteria for substance dependence, exercise addiction can be identified by the following::

  • Tolerance: increasing the amount of exercise in order to feel the desired effect, be it a” buzz” or sense of accomplishment;
  • Withdrawal: in the absence of exercise the person experiences negative effects such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and sleep problems [6];
  • Lack of control: unsuccessful at attempts to reduce exercise level or cease exercising for a certain period of time;
  • Intention effects: unable to stick to one’s intended routine as evidenced by exceeding the amount of time devoted to exercise or consistently going beyond the intended amount;
  • Time: a great deal of time is spent preparing for, engaging in, and recovering from exercise;
  • Reduction in other activities: as a direct result of exercise social, occupational, and/or recreational activities occur less often or are stopped;
  • Continuance: continuing to exercise despite knowing that this activity is creating or exacerbating physical, psychological, and/or interpersonal problems.

Types of Exercise Addiction

There are two types of exercising addiction, primary exercise addiction and secondary exercise addiction. Let’s review each type.

Primary Exercise Addiction

Primary exercise addiction happens when a person  has a behavioral addiction and typically they do not have any other mental conditions other than their addiction to exercise. More than females, males are more likely to have primary exercise addiction because of their response to endorphins. During exercise, endorphins are produced and a person with primary exercise addiction becomes addicted to this feeling. 

Secondary Exercise Addiction

Secondary exercise addiction is a type of exercise addiction that is tied to another type of addiction. As mentioned above, persons with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are often tied to secondary exercise addictions.

What Causes Someone to Get an Exercise Addiction?

Exercise addictions typically begin with a person having the desire to change how their body looks or to improve their physical fitness levels. In addition, persons struggling with eating disorders may turn to an unhealthy relationship with exercise to accomplish their goals.

Exercise addictions can also be triggered by the great feelings a person may experience when their body releases dopamine and endorphins during exercise. These feelings of euphoria experienced can cause a person to exercise at an unhealthy level that harms their well-being.

Effects of Exercise Addiction

In addition to the numerous negative effects experienced by some patients with an eating disorder, exercise addiction presents some of its own negative effects including:

  • Injuries including (but not limited to) joint damage, sprained ligaments, torn muscles, loss of muscle mass
  • Interference with everyday life
  • More prone to get injured
  • Negative social consequences
  • Menstrual disturbance in women

Exercise Addiction Levels of Care

Outside of the primary care setting, there are a few levels of care available to individuals with eating disorders. Let’s review binge eating disorder treatment options:


  • Often where the treatment process begins
  • Patient lives at home and attends hourly sessions at their providers’ offices
  • Appropriate for patients who are medically stable, motivated, self-sufficient, and have adequate support and structure at home

Intensive Outpatient

  • Typically occurs in a specialized setting (e.g., a clinic or hospital)
  • Patients live at home and attend sessions three to five times a week that last approximately three hours each
  • Program may include numerous types of therapy, including, but not limited to, individual, group, and counseling
  • Appropriate for patients who are medically stable, self-sufficient, and have adequate support and structure at home, but may need some degree of external structure beyond self-control

Partial Hospitalization (Full-Day Outpatient Care)

  • Occurs in a specialized setting and can be connected to a hospital program or a free-standing facility
  • Patient requires a high level of supervision and monitoring
  • Patient must be able to demonstrate some ability to retain the gains made in treatment without 24-hour monitoring
  • Patient must not be a suicide risk or medically compromised to the point of requiring hospitalization
  • Patient must have sufficient resources and motivation to attend program
  • Patient’s home or living environment must be one that can be supportive of the recovery process
  • Wide variety in quality of programming and hours of available treatment across programs, making it critical that patient’s needs and circumstances are appropriate for this level of care
  •     Care is typically 5– 12 hours per day, 4– 7 days per week.

Residential Treatment Center

  • Highly specialized programs that can be operated independent of hospital setting, but sometimes connected to a hospital setting
  • Indicated when patient is not able to retain gains without 24-hour monitoring
  • May be indicated when severity of symptoms necessitates constant monitoring in order to initiate and sustain symptom-free behavior and normalized eating
  • May be indicated for patients whose activities of daily living are compromised by the disorder May be indicated for the development of a normalized, healthy lifestyle conducive to long-term health and well being
  • May include specialized approaches that help the patient develop routines and activities of daily living that create patterns of behavior that are conducive to recovery
  • Useful in situations with a high degree of psychiatric comorbidity that require intensified focus during treatment
  • Sometimes indicated on the basis of a lack of supportive and safe environment where the patient can be expected be able to make meaningful, retainable progress
  • May be appropriate when patient is overwhelmed with symptoms and unable to refrain from reverting to symptoms or other behaviors that compromise their well being when alone
  • Appropriate for patients with either lower or higher levels of motivation, but generally patients must enter treatment voluntarily

Inpatient Hospitalization

  • Generally used for a period of short-term stabilization proceeding initiation of treatment at lower levels of care
  • Indicated in situation where patient is a suicide risk or gravely disabled by symptoms and unable to participate in residential or lower levels of care due to presenting symptoms, which may include depression, poor motivation, poor insight, and/ or other factors that limit ability to meaningfully participate in lower levels of care
  • Appropriate in situations where hospital-based medical care is indicated (i.e., IV lines or other more invasive medical treatments are needed)

How is Exercise Addiction Treated?

Treating exercise addiction may not require stopping exercise completely. Because exercise in moderation is typically a very healthy activity, the goal of your provider should be to return your exercise levels to moderation. 

Like in many behavioral addictions patients experience, exercise addiction treatment can involve a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. Because patients are sometimes not aware of the negative effects of exercise addiction, qualitative studies of exercise addiction suggest that patients will need to be motivated in order to be treated. Once a patient is properly motivated, you can turn your attention to realigning their thoughts such as their need to control the body and the idea that exercise is always good even when it is done in an excessive manner. 

One type of behavioral strategy your provider may do is called contingency management. It can be used to reward you from not partaking in a certain type of exercise or lowering levels that they once participated in. 

Getting exercise addiction treatment may require expertise in treating other addictions, like eating disorders. To be successfully treated from multiple types of addiction, you’ll need to treat both addictions at the same time. According to NCBI:

“When exercise addiction and eating disorders co-occur, the danger is that only one problem will be treated. Often the eating disorder, as the better-known disorder, is the focus of treatment and the secondary exercise addiction remains hidden. Despite the improved relationship to food, the patient still does not gain weight, which is managed through an increase in the exercise regimen.”

If you also struggle with an eating disorder, I can help guide you in treating a wide variety of eating disorders. 

Finding Exercise Addiction Recovery

If you think you or a loved one needs exercise addiction treatment, you’ve come to the right place. The first step to exercise addiction recovery is acknowledging you need help and then seeking help. 

It’s important to understand that exercise addiction is a true biological phenomenon—exercise can activate the same hormones and neurotransmitters active in substance abuse.

Exercise addiction can be associated with eating disorders that need to be addressed as well. For example, some sufferers of this addiction feel they must exercise excessively to compensate for eating.

An addiction to exercise may involve hormonal changes, amenorrhea, infertility, osteoporosis, weakness, depression, decreased energy, and irritability.

Having this addiction can be especially confusing because your behaviors as an over-exerciser are often socially reinforced, with approval and praise coming even from health care providers. 

The key to exercise addiction recovery lies in beginning to notice the high price your body is paying and developing a sense of compassion toward your body and yourself. Our team is here to help you do that and to discover new, fun, gentle, and interesting ways to take care of your body that contribute to your sense of overall wellbeing.

Get Online Exercise Addiction Treatment

My name is Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, I am a consultant psychiatrist in Miami, Florida. I believe that compassion, when directed towards self and others, can lead to profound health and healing. If you need online exercise addiction treatment, I can help! I have created a unique treatment model in which you will have the  opportunity to work with providers who I specifically refer to based on your current experience, diagnosis and needs.  I build this team around you and will coordinate your care with the goal to find meaning in your experience, and free you of your symptoms so that you can feel more at peace, and have greater capacity to adapt to life circumstances, to challenge yourself, to be creative, to develop intimacy and to have a fulfilling lifestyle With more than 20 years of clinical experience and a vast network of clinical partners, I’ve developed a unique treatment approach that delves into the underlying issues that place a person at risk for mental health conditions.  Together we will create a protocol and treatment plan that is well coordinated, and that can guide you on your healing process, toward health and inner peace. Contact me today!

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