Exercise addiction

Exercise for many of us is a way to maintain our physical and psychological well-being. It helps us keep our muscles strong, maintain our body weight and relax at the same time. Still, this activity does not become our most important aim and the only focus in our lives. However, exercising may become not normal and healthy when it starts controlling us and our lives instead of the other way around.

Addiction to exercise is still a very new topic. The term “exercise addiction” was first introduced by Dr. William Glasser in 1976, who studied long-distance runners and found out that most of them had this obsessive-compulsive disorder. Statistics claim that 1 percent of the population is affected by this disorder, just like in the case of eating disorders. Nowadays, scientists study it very carefully trying to find more strong evidence to prove the existence of this type of addiction .

Exercise addiction is a compulsive disroder

Psychiatrists define exercise addiction as one of the examples of a compulsive disorder. Other examples of compulsive behavior are gambling addiction , work addiction , eating disorders , alcohol addiction and many more. There are physical, emotional and psychological damages caused by this type of addiction . Although many, in the world where sports are favorable, may argue that this type of addiction could be a positive one, there is, however, no such term, since any addiction damages persons’ lives and health.

You may ask for the reasons for regular exercise to become an addictive disorder . First of all, mostly serious sportsmen and people who do more sports, no matter what kind, become addicted. Those who exercise probably would agree that sports can improve mood, lower anxiety and cause more positive emotions in individuals. This may be one of the motivations why exercise becomes so important to many people.

Another reason is a desire to control. Suspicious and psychologically weak people feel the need to have a control on everything in their lives. Exercise is one of the methods because they can change their body shape, improve their mood and physical state in general while doing sports. For such individuals activity becomes the only focus in life like it is food to people with eating disorders.

And now imagine a person who is already addicted to physical exertion and breaks up with his or her girlfriend or boyfriend. How would he or she cope with the problem and negative emotions? Those who thought that the person would put sporting shoes on straight after the argument were probably right. It is interesting that doing sports becomes a way to cope with life to such individuals. They tend to exercise even more when they have problems at home, work or in their families.

These are most of the subjective and objective reasons for exercise to become an unhealthy habit or simply an addiction. People tend to repeat this activity to achieve certain results until they can no longer live a single day without it.

There is some scientific proof found that proves and finds the deeper reasons for development of this disorder in some individuals. First of all, there are certain changes made in our brain while doing sports. It does not matter if we do cross-country running, swimming or exerting in the gym, our brain releases certain mood modulating substances, such as beta-endorphin. This molecule is responsible for euphoria that comes after exercise.

Another substance that can be responsible for psychological changes caused by doing sports is serotonin. It is a chemical found in the brain and helps to transmit impulses across neurons. It is also responsible for mood elevations, anxiety and sleep control. Therefore scientists propose that this particular substance is released while exercising and may act as Prozac on people. Serotonin is claimed to be the reason for increased mood and lowered anxiety in healthy and depressed individuals after sports.

Psychological factors 

There are also psychological factors that cause mood improvements in people who do physical activity. Specialists say that being distracted from our daily activities while exercising actually helps us to be more satisfied with our bodies and our lives. Sport causes us to forget about our problems for a while and return back to our daily routine with a clear mind. Besides, we feel emotionally better when our bodies are firmer, stronger and healthier. We also do not have to care about our weight too much if we live an active life.

It is extremely hard to differentiate between a healthy exercise and an addiction . Physical activity is advertised a lot these days as a way to stay healthy, handsome and young. Therefore people who do sports are an example to many of us. However, when physical exertion becomes the only purpose in life and other spheres of life are sacrificed to it, exercise is probably an addiction. An addicted person forgets about anything else in the world except for sports. Such a person loses relationships, starts having problems at work and family because he or she only cares about “the daily dose of exercise”.

An addict usually finds many opportunities to do sports instead of spending time with friends. Such a person would start behaving strangely and others may notice that. An addicted person would tend to find excuses for continuous exercise and would start to hide the times he or she does physical activity.

Those, who do sports in order to feel better and healthier, should not stop doing it after reading this article. Just be careful not to become an addict or at least note the first signs of addiction, when they occur. Remember that there are a lot of other nice things apart from exercise you could do in life. The most important thing is to realize when more is less.

Gambling addiction

People do not need to go to Las Vegas these days to play “Black Jack” in a casino. New regulations made some changes and now a casino is found in nearly every city in the United States. Gambling to many of the gamblers is a pleasant hobby and a way to spend their spare time and enjoy themselves. However, there are a lot of people all around the world who sooner or later become pathologic gamblers.

Gambling addiction is one of the obsessive compulsive disorders.  It is described by loss of control on impulses while being in a casino. Denial, symptoms of withdrawal when not gambling and financial problems caused by this pathologic habit comprise most of the features of this type of a psychological disorder. Men are more often affected by this addiction compared to women.

A person who is addicted to this habit usually spends a lot of time in a casino. A first play — no matter if it is lost or won — might be catching and the addict would spend the whole night at the table. Such a person usually gambles all the money he or she has and starts having serious financial problems. Since an addict spends a lot of time at the casino, other spheres of life are not important to him/her anymore. Therefore social problems occur — in the family, at work and with friends.
Unlike with other psychological addictions, drinking, taking drugs come along with pathologic gambling. Hence, a pathologic gambler develops a multiple syndrome and needs a good professional help.

Test yourself

What you might need to know is that an addict usually does not admit to the problem. He/she denies being addicted to family members, friends and even oneself. This questionnaire might help you differentiate between a pathologic and normal gambling.

  1. Did you ever skip the lectures or work due to gambling?
  2. Was your reputation ruined by gambling?
  3. Have you ever felt guilty and ashamed because you could not escape from gambling?
  4. Did you ever go to the casino to get money so that you could deal with your financial problems or debts?
  5. Did gambling diminish your aims or effectiveness?
  6. When you lose do you often go back to the casino to win the money back?
  7. When you win do you wish to win even more?
  8. Did you often stay in a casino until you did not have a single dollar in your purse?
  9. Did you ever borrow to have money to go to a casino?
  10. Was it hard for you to use the money for normal expenses rather than gambling?
  11. Did you become inattentive of your and your family’s prosperity?
  12. Have you ever stayed longer in a casino that you have thought in the beginning?
  13. Have you ever gambled to run away from your problems and anxiety?
  14. Have you ever got the money in an illegal way in order to go to a casino?
  15. Do you have problems in sleeping due to gambling?
  16. Do you feel like going to a casino when you have problems, arguments and dissatisfaction?
  17. Did you ever have a desire to commemorate any good luck going to a casino?
  18. Have you ever thought of ending your life as an effect of your habit?

If your answers were positive to at least three of these questions, you actually need professional help to deal with gambling addiction. Do not hesitate, because this disorder is curable. The only thing you need to do is to ask for help and wish to be treated.

Those who might be afraid of getting addicted to gambling the best thing is not to go to a casino. And if you still go there remember when to stop because anyway "The house always wins".


Computer and internet addiction

Imagine your life in the virtual reality, where everything could be controlled with pressing a single computer button. Children would be taught while sleeping by a special computer program. Our thoughts, dreams and imagination would be stored and controlled by the machines. Our all life spheres would depend upon computers and Internet. It may sound crazy to you like it did sound unbelievable to people half a century ago that a thinking machine would be such an important piece of equipment in people’s lives some day.

Did you know that the computer industry is now the fastest growing industry in the world? With the invention of PC’s, a Worldwide Web was invented eventually. It is a wide source of information, entertainment and a way of communication. There are about 300 million of the Web users in the United States alone. It becomes a problem, however, when a person spends too much time at his or her PC with no control on the habit. It then can be identified as a pathological disorder.
As with all addictions , the main features of computer and Internet addiction are increased tolerance, loss of control on the use of a PC and signs of withdrawal. In general specialists say that a person, who spends much time at his or her computer and cannot control the habit, is probably addicted. In addition, if a person, who cannot get access to the Internet at least for an hour and starts feeling irritated and anxious, has most common signs of withdrawal.
Why are the Web and PC’s so addictive?  Scientists try to find the reasons for the development of Internet addiction. There is a hypothesis that a screen of a computer or TV has hypnotic actions, especially when a person watches it for a longer time.

The mechanism of the occurrence of this impulse-control disorder is similar to that of gambling. A gambler needs a win to hang on gambling for a long time, if a person loses, he or she gets a feeling of dissatisfaction and tries to gamble the money back. For an Internet user, fulfillment must come soon, otherwise the user loses interest in the site. Therefore most of the Web sites are made very attractive for the surfers.
A 24-year-old man spends 12 or even more hours using his computer. He is a student, not an IT specialist. He mostly spends time chatting with people from all over the world in the discussion sites or playing computerized games. Sometimes, he misses the lectures because he spends most of his nights at the PC and is too tired to participate in the courses. His friends complain that he no longer plays basketball and refuses to meet up with them after school. The person’s only purpose is to use his PC and surf the Net. His friends ask why the Web is so attractive. What are the reasons for their friend playing electronic games constantly?

Chat rooms and computer games

Internet discussion sites, also called “the chat rooms”, are very catchy because they give enormous opportunities to people to be whatever they like; they are a chance for a person to be part of the group, which is impossible in the real world. Besides, people who are not self-confident in making relations in normal life usually find many friends on the Web. Contacts on the Internet are made without too much effort — there is no eye contact needed and no responsibility for the relationship. The danger, however, lies in the fact that such a person would not try to connect or make normal contacts with others in real life and Internet might become his or her new real world.

The reason why computerized games are so popular and addictive is that people have an opportunity to become super heroes that do not exist in normal life. Internet users create things, gamble, marry or even kill others on the Internet games. Sometimes they are so catchy that the habit interferes with people’s normal activities and social factors. Just like the above mentioned student, other students addicted to the Web also oversleep the lectures because they spend the nights playing the games, people who have family forget about their obligations to it and the needs of other family members. If players use the Web in the Internet cafés, they spend a lot of money on it.  Exam marks therefore fall, relationships break and financial problems occur.

Internet/Computer addiction symptoms

When used properly, the computer and Net use have a lot of advantages and positive effects, however, when the habit becomes an addiction it no longer has any advantages. First of all there are symptoms of withdrawal when a person cannot access the Web. These symptoms usually include anxiety, depression, loss of mood, interest in anything else but the thing how to get onto the Internet as soon as possible.

Additionally, since a computer addict spends most of his or her time using the Net, other spheres of life of such a person become not important to him or her. A person with this disorder loses interest in his or her work, school, other activities, family and friends. Therefore social problems occur.

The computer use the cause of physical disorders

Even more, uncontrolled computer use causes certain physical disorders. People change their eating habits. They may eat at the computer or skip the meals at all. For example, a woman who spent a lot of time surfing in the chat rooms lost about 10 kilos over a month only because she would forget to eat since she was so occupied with discussions online.

There are also certain damages to the eyes due to watching a screen too long. Eyes get irritated, tired and dry. When a person spends too much time at a PC, he or she does not exercise, which is not healthy and may result in a significant weight gain. In addition, as the wrist gets a lot of physical exertion, carpal tunnel syndrome develops. It needs special surgical treatment.

How can you recognize computer and Internet addiction? Loss of control is one of the signs. It is shown by breaking the promises to other people or self to not use a PC. Another thing is lying to others about how much time you spend surfing the Web. Negative effects of constant use of a computer either in social, financial or physical spheres can occur. Internet becomes the only purpose and focus in one’s life. It is suspicious if a person feels both euphoria and guilt at the same time, while using the Internet. In addition, it is an important sign if an addict uses a PC as a form of relieve therapy, when he or she is sad, confused or irritated.

Internet and PC’s are a detachable part of our lives and modern world. However, we should notice the very early signs of pathological behavior and seek for help as soon as possible, because when untreated computer and Internet addiction could become a serious illness and big problem of our lives.

Work addiction

Nearly every working person is addicted to work in North America and Western Europe. Hard work is praised, rewarded and supported by the society. Work addiction , or workaholism, has long not been recognized to be a pathological state. However, this type of compulsive disorder is said to be a silent killer, having more dangerous effects on body’s systems than any other addictions. More people are known to die of heart disease and other overwork related illnesses than all drug and alcohol addictions combined.

Work addiction syndrome

The work addiction syndrome is defined by focusing on productivity, doing things out of the sense of enthusiasm, work being the only and most important aim in an addict’s life. People who suffer with this type of obsessive compulsive disorder basically cannot control the amount of work, set healthy limits and regulate their schedule.

The effects of workaholism do not depend on gender, age or industry. The country, which is an example of the work addiction syndrome, is Japan, where more than 10,000 people experience the effects of this syndrome every year. At least two people die from this obsessive compulsive disorder every year in Japan. In this country work addiction is called Karoshi, meaning death from overwork.
James W. Leth describes a dilemma of work and life in his article on "Technology and the Work Ethic". He says”To enjoy the good life, you must earn a good salary. To earn a good salary, you can’t have a life.” People, who have the work addiction syndrome usually, do not notice that they have a problem. What they do know is that their life is not fun anymore, meaning, that they have subconsciously chosen work and money instead of amusement in life.

Additionally, a person, who is a workaholic, typically arranges everything in life around his/her work. He/she has difficulties in building activities or finding hobbies outside the work. The addict is not able to relax and enjoy life, which affects his/her social relations. Some say that a workaholic has a distorted picture of perfectionism — he/she can never reach the state at which such a person would be totally satisfied with the work results.

Work addiction symptoms

The main symptoms of workaholism include spending more time at work than a person does with his family or friends, feeling week to say “no” to work and hard tasks, thinking that you are the only one, who can do all the work alone. Other features of this type of addiction are denial of the problem, affected social spheres and physical health problems. Work addiction, as all other psychological addictions, also include withdrawal signs, which are anxiety, feeling of dissatisfaction while being on vacation or going home from work earlier than usually.

Although you might think that the hardest part is treating the problem, the harder is actually to admit to having the problem — it is the very first step to recovery. If you notice any of the above mentioned signs in yourself or other people, close to you, do not hesitate to consult a professional. It is naïve to think that you would be able to deal with the problem on your own without any help.

Professionals usually offer individual or group therapy to work addicts. Some offer special seminars that help people to adjust their life styles, set their new priorities and discover joys in life. With your cooperation and professional help treatment is usually successful in most of the cases.
Finding the balance between good life and hard work is an understandable and very difficult choice. When I think about it, I always remember the five balls. Four of the balls are rubber-made and the fifth one is made of glass. The first four represent money, work, carrier and pride — they are unbreakable and just like a rubber ball can bounce back to you. The fifth one represents a family and health and is the most fragile ball of all — you break it you will never have it back. I always keep a careful eye on the fifth one.

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Sex addiction

No matter how strange or ridiculous it may sound to some, sex addiction actually exists. All types of addictions develop as a method of a person coping with one’s inner and outer problems and stress in life. Psychologists say that the development of addiction to sex may actually be the result of emotional, physical or even sexual abuse in an earlier life.

The nature of sexual addiction is rather different compared to other obsessive compulsive disorders. Firstly, as there is a wide variety of drugs a drug addict can choose from there are also a lot of forms to which a sex addict can feel compulsion for. A person could be addicted to masturbation, prostitution, heterosexual sex, pornography, cybersex or to several forms at a time.
Secondly, this type of a disorder is usually a progressive one. A person suffering from this particular type of addiction usually starts from small “doses” of sex or masturbation until he/she actually increases the amount and effort spent on sexual behavior.

Another difference from other types of obsessive compulsive disorders is a huge shame to admit or tell others that you actually suffer from this pathology. A 30-year-old man confessed he felt a freak because he had a huge impulse to watch pornographic movies most of the time. He realized it was something wrong and unhealthy but he was too ashamed to talk about it with his wife and seek for professional help.
Despite all the differences mentioned it has a very similar pattern in development and features, like with other obsessive compulsive disorders. Sex addiction, as any other addiction, is a pathologic method to cope with various psychological and physical problems of life. Such a person usually has no power in controlling the habit and even if he/she tries to stop it is always unsuccessful. The longer and the harder an addict tries to quit the habit the more shameful, lonely and guilty he/she feels.

Sex addiction may change your life

A person addicted to sex loses relationships, marriages and friendships in the end. He/she finds it hard to concentrate on work and cope with other obligations in life since sexual preoccupation requires so much energy. The end result of such helplessness may be depression, problems with alcohol or even suicidal behavior.
As types of sex addiction are concerned, psychologists note that there is an increased number of people occupied with cybersex. This type is becoming more and more popular in the societies, statistics saying that 9% of internet surfers spend more than 11 hours per week looking for sexual content. Unlike with some other obsessive disorders both male and female populations are affected equally.

If you think you have problems with your sexual behavior do not feel alone or be ashamed to talk about it with a professional. You can also join the “Sexual Addicts Anonymous” club, where you would be able to talk about your problem with people experiencing pretty much the same and trying to find the solution from this pathologic behavior just like you do.

Test yourself

In case you are not sure whether your sexual manner is pathologic or not, you can answer this questionnaire to find out about it.

  1. Do you keep mysteries about your sexual and romantic actions from those important to you? Do you live a double life?
  2. Did you have sex in places or situations or with people you would not normally choose just because you needed this?
  3. Do you look for erotic articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media?
  4. Do you find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are holding you back from coping with problems?
  5. Do you often wish to escape from a sex partner after having sex? Do you often feel ashamed or guilty after a sexual intercourse?
  6. Do you feel ashamed or uncomfortable about your body and your sexuality, so that you do not like to touch your body or engage in romantic relationships? Are you afraid that you might have no sexual feelings?
  7. Does each new relation tend to have the same destructive orders which led you to leave the last relationship?
  8. Do you need more variety and intensity of sexual and romantic actions than earlier to get enough excitement?
  9. Does your craving for sex or romantic relations intrude with your spiritual beliefs or progress?
  10. Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?
  11. Have you ever felt hopeless, lonely, or suicidal due to your sexual or romantic behavior?

If your answers were positive to more than one of these questions, you could be encouraged to find more literature as a resource or talk to a professional. Remember, there is always a way out and there are people eager to help you find it.