Signs of Addiction

How do you know if you are addicted? While we typically think of addiction as a problem with substance abuse, we can be addicted to anything. Take a look at the checklist below, think about something you love doing, may feel compulsive about, and see how your use or engagement queues up.

Loss of Control

  • taking (or doing) more, or engaging with it more frequently than you intend to
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining or engaging in it
  • Having an uncontrollable urge, or craving, to use or engage with it
  • Trying to stop or cut back and not being able to

Interpersonal Consequences

  • Foregoing other social or recreational activities in order to engage or use
  • Experiencing interpersonal conflicts as a result of your engagement or usage
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work or at home as a result of use or engagement

Risky Use

  • Putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations as a result of obtaining or using
  • Continued use despite negative physical and psychological effects

Physical Dependence

  • Developing tolerance – having to use more to achieve the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using/engaging, such as insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, and decreased appetite.

Many of us believe that we don’t have an issue with addiction if we aren’t abusing substances~but sadly, this is not true. Addiction can be to “healthy things”, the unhealthy aspect being the imbalance of how much control the behavior has over your life, the cost of your engagement, and the role it plays in your life. 

Take, for instance, exercise. Many people start exercising to get into physical shape. However, what starts with a healthy intention can quickly become an obsession. As you get more fit, you want more of it. Exercise releases dopamine and endorphins, the same neurotransmitters released while using drugs. And, as with drugs, you need to exercise more and more to trigger the chemical release. Thus the vicious cycle begins.

Traits of Exercise Addiction 

  • Obsessing over the behavior
  • Exercising to the point of injury and continuing to do so
  • Needing more of it
  • Taking physical risks to get the ‘high’
  • Letting go of obligations to get in the “workout (or the fix)”
  • Feeling intense physical and emotional withdrawals when not engaging
  • Wanting to stop and not being able to. 
  • Engaging in the behavior in secret

There is no irony in exercise addiction, it can be very difficult to gain control over it. Our culture is obsessed with exercise and physical fitness so the positive reinforcement a person gets from working out is like a pair of golden handcuffs. However, over-exercising can be hazardous to your health.

The treatment for exercise addiction is similar to addiction. The first step is to acknowledge you have a problem, and then take steps to control your exercise activity. Switching to new forms of exercise or moderate your current workouts can help. An exercise addict may need to stop exercising for a time period to gain control over their desire. To prevent exercise addiction, avoid excessive trips to the gym, limit your workout time and the amount of daily exercise you are getting. Take breaks. If you feel your urge is uncontrollable, consult with your doctor.

Engaging in other pursuits that are not associated with exercise, such as joining a club, getting involved in your community, pursuing the creative arts, etc. can help you get in touch with other parts of yourself which may be dormant if you’ve been hyper-focused on your exercise routine.

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