Addiction, Passion, or Confusion? New Theoretical Insights on Exercise Addiction Research From the Case Study of a Female Body Builder


  • Attila Szabo


Exercise addiction is widely studied in sport science and psychology, but at this time it is not recognized as an independently diagnosable mental or psychiatric disorder. Indeed, studies on exercise addiction assess a level of risk for disordered exercise behaviour, characterized by lack of control and negative personal consequences. It is argued that commitment and passion are two overlapping features of high exercise involvement which obscure the fine line between healthy and unhealthy exercise. The present case study examined a successful female body builder who initially claimed that she was addicted to exercise. During an interview she also completed three questionnaires and her appraisal of well-being in eight life domains were assessed at present, as well as retrospectively before her intensive involvement with exercise. She was screened under the Non-Substance Related Disorders category of Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders classification of DSM-5 for gambling, by replacing the word "gambling" with "exercise". Although she was susceptible to exercise addiction, attained high scores on obsessive passion, exhibited more than four symptoms on the DSM list, she exhibited no signs of loss of control and she mainly reported positive experiences associated with her exercise behaviour. She has obtained a nearly maximum score on commitment to exercise and high score on harmonious passion. Almost all aspects of her life have changed in positive direction after getting intensely involved in exercise. This case illustrates that the current scholastic path to the study of exercise addiction may be obscured by ambiguous assumptions and unilateral quantitative focus.