Is exercise addiction a real phenomenon? Or is it just a behavior or a habit that people have taken to the extreme? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
First of all, exercise is a pretty healthy activity, even when it is a bit excessive. Now obviously you can go overboard with anything in life, and if it starts to become a problem, then that is a different story. In the case of exercise addictions, what we need to consider is the consequences. If it is not a problem then it is not a problem. So what are the possible consequences?
1) Exercising to exhaustion or injury, over and over again. This does not seem so common. Most people who exercise a great deal have found how to do so without creating injuries, as this would only prevent future exercise. These people are driven by the physical rush that comes from a good workout.
2) Exercising to avoid responsibilities or relationships. Using it as a tool to avoid confrontation.
3) Using exercise as an escape mechanism. Avoiding reality, avoiding having to look at self, or avoiding having to deal with problems by turning to excessive amounts of exercise.
4) Being addicted to the gym, and not really addicted to exercise at all, but rather to the social aspect of the gym or the escape environment that it provides.
So those are some general possibilities for how a person might be addicted to exercising. I am not so sure that those who are driven to exercise due to the physical and chemical rewards they are getting are actually facing a huge problem. Injury and exhaustion should help to regulate exercise to moderate levels. Just because they like the feeling of a good workout does not necessarily mean that they are overdoing things, as it all depends on their consequences. If they are missing work or ruining a relationship so that they can continue to exercise more, then this is a problem.
On the other hand, some people may be addicted to exercise in the same way that a person can be addicted to reading books. They are using it simply as an escape, in order to avoid dealing with life or looking at their own situation. This might be similar, too, to someone who is addicted to work and continues to work overtime every single day. They are not addicted to the work itself, but rather to the escape from reality.