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Worried About Friend's Fitness Obsession? Here’s How to Be An Encouraging Ally

Exercise addiction is a real thing that affects people who acquire an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness.

Ishaan Arora
Written by: Ishaan AroraUpdated at: May 25, 2023 17:10 IST
Worried About Friend's Fitness Obsession? Here’s How to Be An Encouraging Ally

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We all have that one friend who fantasises about lifting weights and going to the gym. It is nice to have a friend who is willing to sweat and put in the efforts when everyone is glued to their screens. But it may get irritating if all they have are fitness stories and discussions. So, if you're concerned about a friend's obsession with fitness, it's crucial to approach the situation with caution and to be an encouraging ally. 

To know if exercise can be addictive and how you can identify it, we reached out to Dr Era Dutta, Consultant Psychiatrist, Therapist, Corporate Wellness Expert and Founder- Mind Wellness

Can Exercise Be Addictive? 

We often hear about addictions to substances like drugs or alcohol, but can exercise also be addictive? The short answer is yes. According to Dr Dutta, "Any behaviour that boosts dopamine can become dependence (addiction) forming." She added that exercise addiction, also known as exercise dependence or compulsive exercise, is a real phenomenon that affects individuals who develop an unhealthy preoccupation with physical fitness. While regular exercise is undoubtedly beneficial, it's crucial to strike a balance between a healthy lifestyle and an obsession that can be detrimental to one's well-being.

Signs Your Friend May Be Becoming Obsessed

Dr Dutta listed signs that indicate your friend may be becoming obsessed with fitness are as follows:

Also Read: Bodily Changes That Bodybuilders Face, That Are Not Always Positive

1) Refusing To Go Out For Eating

If your friend starts skipping social events, neglecting responsibilities, or abandoning hobbies they once enjoyed in order to work out, it may indicate a growing obsession with fitness.

2) Working Out To The Point Of Exhaustion

Obsessed individuals often display inflexible workout routines, pushing themselves to exercise regardless of illness, fatigue, or injury. They may also experience intense guilt or anxiety if they miss a workout session.

3) Having Severe Body Image Dissatisfaction  

While exercise can boost self-confidence, an obsession with fitness can lead to a distorted body image, where someone becomes overly critical of their appearance, despite physical fitness achievements.

4) Withdrawal Symptoms

Like any addiction, your friend may exhibit withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to exercise. These symptoms may include irritability, restlessness, or even depression.

Being An Ally

Follow these expert-recommended tips to become an encouraging ally:

1) Support Your Friend’s Journey And Be Encouraging 

Approach your friend in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner. Share your observations and let them know that you care about their well-being.

2) Listen Actively

Give your friend the opportunity to express themselves. Let them share their experiences, feelings, and challenges without interruption. Show that you genuinely value their perspective.

3) Complimenting And Validating The Friend's Efforts  

Be there for your friend when they need someone to lean on. Offer to accompany them to non-gym-related activities or help them find professional guidance if necessary.

4) Offer Support

Suggest your friend activities that go beyond fitness. Encourage hobbies, social outings, or relaxation techniques that promote a balanced lifestyle. Remind them that there is more to life than just exercise.

Also Read: Is Gym Comparison Keeping You From Workout? 4 Foolproof Ways To Stay Focused

5) Educate yourself

Learn more about exercise addiction and its potential consequences. This knowledge will equip you with a better understanding of your friend's struggles and allow you to offer appropriate support.

[Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided by a registered medical practitioner. However, we recommend you consult your healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and treatment.]

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