Regular exercise is part of a healthy, balanced life but when it becomes a compulsion and creates overwhelming guilt for failing to make it to the gym, one could be suffering from exercise bulimia. Considered to be a psychological disorder, exercise bulimia affects both the sexes but is more common in men than women. Over a long period of time, the mental condition can cause dehydration and physical exhaustion that could cause a reduction in electrolytes, leading to a range of symptoms, from cramping to heart failure.
Exercise bulimia is a form of bulimia nervosa, a type of an eating disorder, which comes with an intense desire of and preoccupation with working out and burning calories. Those suffering from exercise bulimia are obsessed with exercising and keeping their body in shape. As a result, they often binge and then exercise excessively to lose weight and relieve the guilt. In the United States, approximately 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder. It’s a mental health disorder with the highest mortality rate that claims at least one life across the country every 62 minutes. Eating disorders can affect people irrespective of their age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic group.
Understanding exercise bulimia
A relatively new term, exercise bulimia refers to an extreme behavior in which an individual is compelled to exercise to burn the calories to an excessive level that negatively affects one’s physical and mental health. As bulimia often entails some type of compensation, the behavior in exercise bulimia is to compensate for food eaten through excessive physical workout. While in women, the disease can manifest in the obsession to lose weight, in men, it may manifest as a desire to reduce body fat and gain muscles. If they skip the daily regimen, their minds get muddled with shame and guilt, leading to skipping meals or consuming a very low amount of food thereafter.
While exercising can provide short-term relief, in the long-term it can lead to isolation and suffering. An individual suffering from this illness would indulge in excessive gym training to compensate for the calories consumed, starve but continue to exercise to the point of self-harm.
Causes, symptoms and consequences
As with other eating disorders, exercise bulimia can be caused by a combination of physical, psychological and societal factors, such as genes, self-esteem issues, chemical imbalance in the brain and body image issues, among others.
Similar to any other addiction, an individual’s addiction to exercise can be spotted through different signs and symptoms, such as closely tracking calories burned while working out, exercising despite being sick, intense guilt when not able to exercise, prioritizing exercise over other social commitments and refusal to eat if unable to exercise. When undertaken as a form of compulsion, excessive exercise can lead to dangerous consequences like dehydration, reproductive problems, heart problems, stress on bones and joints as well as strains, sprains and fractures.
Similar to other eating disorders, the first step in treating exercise bulimia is to acknowledge that one has the disease and to talk to a doctor or a certified health care professional about one’s behavior that is often followed by therapy or counseling sessions at a good behavioral health treatment facility.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, but treatable
Eating disorders are much more common in young girls and women, and can sometimes co-occur with substance abuse problems and other mental health problems like anxiety or depression. At Sovereign Health of California, we provide adolescents and adult patients with the most comprehensive treatment plan for any form of eating disorder in order to treat the person holistically. Our team of specialists follow an integrated approach in designing the most-suited treatment program combining counseling, life skills training, nutrition education and experiential therapies.
Sovereign Health’s Eating Disorder Program incorporates treatment for bulimia and teaches the patients healthy eating behaviors, effective coping skills as well as positive thoughts about their body shape and weight. To learn more about our programs or to locate the finest bulimia rehab centers, call our 24/7 helpline and speak to our admission specialist. You can even chat online for further assistance.