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Are You Over Exercising? How to Recognize Adrenaline Addiction

You know what the gyms and fitness trainers won’t tell you because they themselves probably don’t know? There is a such thing as exercise addition caused by overexercising.

Overexercising can lead to a symptom of withdrawal called anhedonia which makes activities feel less pleasurable than the one you’re addicted to and can lead to poor mood, injury, and malnourishment.

Addicted to Adrenaline

The term, ‘adrenaline junkie’ is something we throw around lightly when describing a personality trait but it’s important to be able to discern when you’re exercising too much and be able to understand how it affects your brain and body.

The addictive tendencies one has are often inherited genetically and those addictions can show up in places we wouldn’t expect such as the gym. When we are told to look to a healthy lifestyle to cure substance abuse, it’s very easy for the gym to replace our addiction. Essentially, the brain is flooded with endorphins when we exercise which makes us feel elated. Maybe you’ve felt the runner’s high or that buzzed feeling after a yoga class. However, we develop immunity to these chemicals so that we start to need more exercise to reach the same state. Just like caffeine, social media, or work addiction, we start slowly increasing our dosage to unhealthy levels that can alter our behavior and relationships.

Do I Have an Exercise Addition?

We live in a culture that actually encourages exercise addiction and if you’re in a family or social group that is obsessed with results, looks, performance, bragging, one-upping, fitness, or overly competitive, this can easily become your life without you even realizing it. There are signs to look for that would indicate exercise addiction or adrenaline addiction.

Signs of Exercise Addiction

The first would be the compulsive desire to workout, others include…

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Agitation, irritability, impatience
  • Restlessness
  • Poor sleep
  • Restless legs
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent injuries or injuries that don’t heal

When Healthy Becomes Unhealthy

Obsessing over your weight, your body image, or attaining a new skill in a sport even if it’s just lifting weight can indicate addiction. There can be linked addictions related to healthy living like eating so healthy you’re obsessing over it constantly and always talking about your food choices.

Constantly thinking about getting better physically faster through diet alteration or extreme dieting to get desired physical results might be a part of your exercise addiction which is adding to your overall unhealthy behavior.

You may be planning everything around working out, no longer socializing, or just thinking about working out all the time. Working out two or three times a day or many hours each day may not be good for you after all.

Read this next: Junk Food & Mental Health: What’s The Link?

Your Brain on Euphoria

If you have an adrenaline addiction, the adrenaline that kicks in when you’re working out dilates your blood vessels. Your heart rate increases and you get a heightened state of alertness. It makes you feel good because endorphins are released and we then feel powerful and as if we are able to actually do anything.

What Actually Happens to Your Brain

This state of euphoria is what leads to irrational thinking where we will justify working out even if it’s having negative consequences in our life such as alienating us from friends or causing bodily harm.

Adrenaline addiction, as well as dopamine addiction, are similar to opioid addiction even though we are not taking a pill or drug. Seeing a behavioral psychologist who specializes in addiction can help you recognize these patterns and create new ones.

Remember: Overexercising is an Eating Disorder

If you’re prone to addictive behavior in other areas and have suffered from burnout or addiction to sex, food, or alcohol, you’re also more susceptible to exercise addiction. Additionally, those who have had seriously unhealthy relationships that are codependent often suffer from the same adrenaline addiction because anger and fighting in volatile relationships release that same adrenaline that we get when there is a sense of danger or risk in sports.

Those who suffer from low self-esteem are also more susceptible to exercise addiction which means women who are constantly objectified even within their own home and often by their own mind, can fall into this category quite easily.

While it’s not a recognized disorder yet, it is being talked about a lot, and more studies are being done to bring awareness to this condition.

Healthy Approaches To Overcome Addiction

Just as with any addiction, the first step is acknowledging that you have an issue and that you want to change. You do not need to feel ashamed of this but address it as you would a broken bone or virus. Take the steps that others have taken to heal and focus on a vision of you that is balanced. Avoid people who are also addicted to exercise for now while you’re trying to change your habit.

Find relaxation techniques you can use daily as well as natural relaxation remedies like herbal tea and essential oils. Chamomile tea, vanilla oil or lavender oil, are easy to find relaxants. Some ways to relax are listening to calm music, cooking, drawing, or taking a bubble bath. Study the art of zen by attending a zen meditation, doing guided meditations, or finding something that allows time to pass without your realizing so your creative mind can soar.

Relaxation triggers your body to feel safe and allows you to feel euphoric without tripping the ‘fight or flight’ response that releases adrenaline.

You can also avoid adrenaline-inducing experiences that will make it harder to quit your need for speed so to speak. That means to avoid going sky diving, skiing, surfing, rock climbing, or raving too much because they are only reinforcing that you can only be happy during these times when it’s much more fun to be happy all the time.

Moving Forward

Of course sometimes, as is the case with any addiction, we may need to seek therapy and there is no shame in it. Some therapists will help you find these same outlets to develop behaviors that lead to a balanced overall mood and life.

It’s important not to be too quick to take medication unless you’ve received multiple opinions because many pharmaceuticals are highly addictive. Granted some people find medication is the way to a balanced lifestyle if that is indeed the proper treatment for them. All too often, doctors subscribe pills instead of looking at lifestyle alterations.

The main goal in your journey out of exercise addiction is finding love in yourself without the needing to be on the never ending track to fitness. Take this process slowly and be kind to yourself when you can. You deserve it.

Related Article: The Social Media Threshold: When is it Harmful?

Shannon Yrizarry

Shannon Yrizarry

Trusting her intuition has brought Shannon a wealth of gifts and she brings this wisdom to Daily Life … daily! Instead of following the "norms" of career development, Shannon followed her gut. It's led her to some extraordinary places and experiences as a healer, clairvoyant, metaphysical teacher and Kundalini yoga instructor.... Read More

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