Runnorexia, or Running Addiction: How to Identify It

A running addiction can cause significant damage to people's quality of life. Find out how to recognize and treat the symptoms of this problem in this article.
Runnorexia, or Running Addiction: How to Identify It

Last update: 24 April, 2021

Going for a run is positive because it improves circulation, cerebral oxygenation, and helps to maintain an adequate body mass index. However, doing it obsessively is harmful to your health. In this article, we’re going to see what runnorexia, or running addiction, is all about.

Any activity can become a problem for human beings, even those that were originally meant to improve the quality of life. Nothing done in excess is healthy. In life, we need to maintain a balance.

What is runnorexia?

Although it’s a physical activity that aims to improve aesthetics and overall health, excessive running can become a serious problem for some people. In fact, runnorexia or running addiction is defined as a behavioral dependence.

People who start the habit of doing a sport do so to improve their quality of life. But they may end up generating a pathological dependence on the activity.

In the case of runnorexia, the problem’s that the person completely loses the objective of going out for a run. They no longer do it for the health benefits of exercise, but only seek to satisfy an irrational desire that produces momentary pleasure.

Social influence represents one of the main risk factors for the acquisition of behavioral addictions. For example, a person who’s unhappy with their physical appearance is influenced by beauty stereotypes, which they’ll aggressively seek to achieve.

A woman running up bleachers.
By becoming obsessive about going for a jog or run, you lose the intended health gains of exercise.

Read: The Best Dynamic Stretches Before Running

How can you identify it?

As with other types of addictions, the main indicator for recognizing runnorexia or running addiction is the frequency with which someone performs the activity. In cases where running takes place daily, as a kind of ritual, the prevalence indicator is met.

Of course, it’ll also be necessary to recognize the level of importance people attach to it. For example, someone who can’t miss a day of training without feeling distress would meet the irrational behavior indicator.

Along the same lines, another sign of whether running’s become a problem is the intensity of the behavior. Intense cases occur when a person can’t stop, even if they’re experiencing some kind of discomfort. An example of this would be going out for a run without having recovered from an injury.

Overtraining isn’t the same as running addiction. In the case of the person who overtrains, it could be due to anxiety regarding some competition. What happens with runnorexia is that it doesn’t correspond with the pursuit of a goal but with the need to maintain the behavior constantly and irrationally.

What are the signs of runnorexia to look out for?

The indicators of addiction are usually present themselves in terms of fairly clear symptomatology. Taking into account that, in this case, it’s a behavior, let’s see what are the most obvious signs:

  • Obsession: The person immerses themself in their running routine to the point of not being able to avoid doing it daily.
  • Running produces negative consequences in the important areas of life: Work, study, family.
  • Inability to maintain control.
  • Denial: It’s difficult for an addict to accept that they’re is presenting a problem due to the addictive behavior.

What are the physical and social consequences?

We can categorize the negative consequences of running addiction into two aspects:

  • Physical: From muscle injuries to extreme mass loss.
  • Social: Neglect of important relationships with family and friends.

In some cases, people distance themselves from their closest social circle who try to talk some sense into them regarding their addiction. The physical and social consequences that people with addiction present always affect their family and friends.

How to overcome runnorexia or running addiction

Overcoming a behavioral addiction requires accepting that you have a problem. From that moment, people can begin the process of detoxification of their behavior. In this sense, they must acquire new habits that will gradually gain ground.

Psychological care may be required in cases of a running addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most common type of treatment in such cases, as it works quite well to restructure the mental schemas that maintain the addiction.

The support of family and friends can make the difference between success and failure in the process of overcoming addictions. When those close to the individual can understand that their loved one is dealing with an addiction, it’s best to avoid being judgmental of their situation.

The best way to provide support is to do it with understanding, making the affected person feel understood and supported. However, the problem shouldn’t be downplayed. Phrases like “you just have to stop, you can do it” or “it can’t be that hard to stop running” are counterproductive.

A woman running near the ocean.
Behavioral addictions modify social relationships for the worse, affecting the bond and favoring isolation.

Recommendations to prevent a running addiction or runnorexia

Some ideas to prevent runnorexia or running addiction start from self-perception – that is, that a person has a healthy self-concept. This principle is based on the fact that good self-esteem promotes healthy self-care habits.

Experts recommend boosting self-esteem by making an objective evaluation of the things we’re proud of.

Finally, it’s important to be careful about the way we structure our routines. For example, it’s not a good idea to be rigid when developing an exercise plan. The best thing to do is to have rest days when we can do other things that are also beneficial.

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