Anorexia Athletica

Anorexia athletica is a type of anorexia nervosa and because it is not as common, it can be more difficult to catch the warning signs of anorexia athletica. It is also known as compulsive exercise. Teens are most likely to suffer from anorexia athletica.

Most of the teens who suffer from this condition experience a strong compulsion to exercise constantly even if they do not enjoy working out. It also involves excessive levels of exercise. If the conditions of anorexia athletica worsen, there is a chance the teen may delve into other types of eating disorders like full-fledged anorexia. In comparison, those who suffer from anorexia nervosa might also exhibit signs of anorexia athletica or compulsive exercise, which is also known as obligatory exercise. The person who suffers from anorexia athletica might experience feelings of anxiety or heavy guilt if he or she does not get to workout. The teen may begin to plan their entire life around working out and exercise. 

Some may argue that too much exercise isn't a bad thing, but it can be if it begins to take over other important aspects of the teen's life like interfering with school, homework, and personal relationships. The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services recommends at least 60 minutes of exercise or physical activity for most individuals per day. However, if a teen starts showing signs of exercising well beyond that scheduling multiple workouts in a day and neglects other aspects of their life so they can exercise, it can become a problem that turns into anorexia athletica. 

While anorexia and compulsive exercise do not always go hand-in-hand, those who suffer from anorexia athletica might begin to take their obsession over exercise and their weight to begin restricting their diet to keep losing weight. This is why it is important to seek treatment for those who may be exhibiting signs of compulsive exercise.

Signs of anorexia athletica:

  • Frequently talks about their weight or worries about their appearance.
  • Weight loss over 5 percent of their normal body weight.
  • Cuts back on calories in their normal diet. Restricts their diets to only "healthy" foods.
  • Might experience regular heartburn, constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal distention.
  • Takes time away from school or work and other activities in order to work out.
  • Is defensive of their excessive behavior and does not believe there is anything wrong with their workout schedule.
  • Never satisfied with athletic accomplishments, always wants to do better.
  • Acts annoyed or irritable if they do not get to work out or if their workout is interrupted.
  • May show signs of eating disorders (ie. throwing  up food, binging/purging, restricting diet or refusing to eat at all).

The ones who are the most at risk for developing this anorexia athletica disorder are typically teens ages 12 to 19. These teens may already be athletes and may take their training to an unhealthy level. They are likely a victim of low self-esteem and may feel out of control in other areas of their life so they turn to compulsive exercise as a way to cope and grasp on to that feeling of control they so desire. If you are a teen who is exhibiting these symptoms to an unhealthy degree, understand that it is a mental illness and can be treated with counseling and therapy efforts. Talk to a trusted adult about getting the professional help you need before allowing this disease to progress and only worsen developing into a full-fledged eating disorder. If you are a parent with teen exhibiting the signs of anorexia athletica, get them help right away with counseling to help them combat the inner struggles they are facing that is resulting outwardly in the form of this obsession. While it is not wrong to want to exercise, there are risks involved with exercising too much like having the disorder escalate into an eating disorder or having injuries occur while the person is working out. When someone is tired and exhausted from too much exercise, they will be sloppy the next time they work out, which can result in various bodily injuries. It can also lower their immune system so they end up getting sick, burned out or experience anxiety and other related medical issues. Get help as soon as possible before this disorder becomes worse.


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