Sports Addiction – Success and Dependence – Lexicon for Medicine & Health

Sports addiction – success and dependence

Sports addiction is a much more present topic than was previously assumed. This is also based on a study by the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, which came to the conclusion that around 4.5 percent of endurance athletes suffer from sports addiction. This is a societal problem that is often associated with ideals of beauty or increased performance. Running and endurance sports are particularly affected.

What is sports addiction?

Increasingly extreme demands on athletes, such as various tri- or marathons, mean that many of those affected overstrain themselves, resort to unfair means and thus slip into sports addiction. The body’s warning signals are disregarded, and one’s own limits are regularly overcome.

This problem will therefore be explained in more detail below. A definition and dissemination in the population is followed by a differentiation between primary and secondary sports addiction and other forms of addiction associated with sports.

The fine line between healthy training and addictive behavior should also be mentioned in this text before the various therapy options are presented. A summary concludes this essay.

according to dr med Nonnenmacher , addiction prevails when the behavior of a person affected is characterized by an uncontrollable desire for a specific substance or activity. This can include alcohol , nicotine , drugs or even sport.

WP Morgan provided a first definition of sports addiction in his publication “Negative addiction in runners”, in which he based himself on the criteria of dependence and applied them to sports. According to Morgan, exercise addiction is a condition that requires a sufferer to exercise compulsively and daily to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

If he cannot practice this sport, he falls into a depressive mood , which can manifest itself through aggressiveness , restlessness or sleep disorders . These and other definitions and background information on the subject of sports addiction can be found in the study below.

Sports addiction in the population

Sports addiction is not yet established in society. There are critics who claim that the symptoms do not arise because of the sport, but because of other disorders. The disease is therefore merely an accompanying phenomenon. According to Prof. Dr. Schack from the University of Bielefeld is nonsense.

In addition, the sports scientist and psychologist claims that a reduction to just biological factors is not possible. Accordingly, addiction does not arise from the release of happy hormones, as is often assumed, but is a combination of social, psychological and biological factors.

Within the population, the volume continues to be downplayed, especially since the percentage rate is currently only one percent. Women between the ages of 15 and 25 are most often affected, as they often try to achieve an ideal of beauty. Men between the ages of 40 and 50 are also more inclined towards behavior that can culminate in a sports addiction, since the pressure to succeed at work and privately is increasing at this time.

Empirically, it is not difficult to find those affected. A look at the compulsion to run in long-distance runners, bodybuilding or strength training already offer enough examples. But even in weight-based sports such as boxing, ski jumping or wrestling, there are diagnoses that confirm a sports addiction.

Accordingly, sports addiction is a phenomenon that occurs in many sports and can affect all sections of the population. In their publication “Primary sports addiction and physical activity-related dependence – description, explanation and diagnostics”, Kleinert and Breuer have shown the frequency of sports addiction in society.

Primary versus secondary exercise addiction

Oliver Stoll, Professor of Sports Psychology and Sports Education at the University of Halle-Wittenberg, explains the causes of the addiction to the magazine Die Welt :

“I would see the compensation factor as crucial. Does someone exercise because something else in life isn’t working? Exercise then becomes a non-functional coping behavior.”

This is closely linked to a “health imperative” because people almost have to justify themselves if they don’t exercise, so experts claim there is also a link between the societal pressure to exercise and exercise addiction. Therefore, a distinction must also be made between an addiction to sport and an addiction to the ideal of beauty.

Many experts support the division into the two groups, although there is also great criticism in this regard. However, the proponents agree that a classification is important, since it is relevant for therapeutic reasons whether an eating disorder exists or not. Accordingly, there is the primary sports addiction, which occurs in connection with the sports activity itself, and the secondary sports addiction, which also involves an eating disorder or an obsessive -compulsive disorder .

Primary: sport to improve performance

1. Lack of connection to a mental disorder
The primary sports addiction is an independent disease, which should contribute in particular to improving one’s own performance. Unlike secondary sports addiction, this is not related to mental disorders such as pathological eating habits. The sport is done for its own sake and not to conform to an ideal of beauty. However, there is a great deal of divergence in the definitions here, especially since the disease has not yet been included in the ICD-10 or the DSM-IV. The focus is on increasing performance, which is often attempted to be achieved using illegal substances. Accordingly, it is not unreasonable that some addicts, especially those who do not suffer from an eating disorder, turn to dopingor other illegal means to increase performance.
2. Preventive measures taken by the dietary supplement industry
Manufacturer warnings
Especially in bodybuilding, the addiction to a perfect body plays a major role, which is why the susceptibility to doping is particularly high here. For this reason, the manufacturers of the dietary supplementsprovides the following information to warn and protect athletes against doping, whether intentional or unintentional. In addition, athletes who depend on the purity of the products because they take part in competitions depend on the statements of the manufacturers. In the same context, they distance themselves from doping in general and advise everyone to refrain from these additional illegal preparations. Rather, the training should be well planned and the diet should be well thought out. This coincides with the statements on the prevention of sports addiction, because responsible use of sports and nutrition can improve both health and athletic goals.
Quality guidelines to avoid doping
For this reason, the quality of the products should also be constantly improved. There are now various seals and quality guidelines that guarantee the purity of the products. The manufacturers thus clearly distance themselves from doping and any other means of achieving unhealthy goals. Here, for example, the ISO standard 9001:2000 should be mentioned, which controls the quality of production, from the raw material to the finished product. Peak Performance Products SAinforms about the various guidelines and seals that are relevant in the manufacture of the products in order to avoid that the preparations are diluted with doping additives. In addition to the standard already mentioned, the Hazard Analysis Critical Point concept also plays an important role because it refers to the prevailing hygiene regulations.

Secondary: Sport based on an ideal of beauty

This variation in exercise addiction is closely related to anorexia , specifically a morbid fear of gaining weight. Unlike the primary sports addiction, this compulsion does not result from a sporting motivation, more precisely the goal of sporting success and competitiveness, but only from the incentive to lose weight .

This conscious loss of body weight initially begins with anorexia athletica , which involves weight loss to improve athletic performance, and ends in the worst case in anorexia nervosa , a condition in which the increase in athletic performance increasingly takes a back seat and instead the personal sense of beauty gains in importance. Accordingly, secondary sports addiction is closely related to mental illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia .

Other forms of addiction

Adrenaline addiction

Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and released when you are overstimulated . This can happen in stressful situations or when there is an increased lack of oxygen. What many people call insanity or a longing for death is part of everyday life for others.

This starts with everyday amateur athletes who push their adrenaline levels to the extreme with obstacle races. However, some also take significant risks in order to fulfill their addiction, such as base jumping or freeway speedsters. This behavior is often irresponsible and puts other people at risk. It is about positive tension by increasing the adrenaline level. Controlling the situation is essential.

The increasingly extreme activities can culminate in mortal danger despite the controls. The addiction factor arises from the fact that the cross-border commuters successfully get things over with and want to increase this next time. This effect comes from the release of dopamine , which has to be higher and higher to keep satisfying the craving.

Running & Endurance Addiction

Running addiction has been on the rise in the USA since the 1970s, but also in Europe, because at that time the numbers in extreme competitions such as triathlons or long-distance runs over longer distances were increasing. However, the urge to exercise should not be equated with a sports addiction.

After all, addiction is not defined by the activity itself, but by the withdrawal symptoms that arise when those affected give up sport. Addiction occurs when physical signals of overload are disregarded, psycho-physical withdrawal symptoms occur, or there is a compulsion to do something so that the behavior controls the person and not vice versa.

Muscle addiction

While anorexia is often the main concern in women, it is muscle addiction in some men. However, it must be clearly differentiated that this is not an eating disorder, but a misperception of body image.

Nevertheless, there are many similarities between the two clinical pictures, for example increasing perfectionism, low self-esteem or dissatisfaction with one’s own body. However, there is a wide divergence between one’s own standards and the social ideal of beauty.

Accordingly, the opinions about the perfect muscle mass differ by up to nine kilograms between the social ideal of beauty and that of people who suffer from muscle addiction. For more information on muscle addiction in men, see this article .

The border between healthy training & addiction to sport

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.