Exercise Dependence in Anorexia Nervosa

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2003 Volume 14, Number 3
©2003 Gürze Books

For some individuals with anorexia nervosa, the overwhelming need to exercise can be compared to substance dependence. According to Andrew Bennett, MD, and colleagues at New York State Psychiatric Institute, a syndrome of exercise dependence may exist for some anorexia nervosa (AN) patients. The researchers adapted a questionnaire used to measure the severity of substance dependence to study exercise dependence in AN. Eighteen women who met the criteria for AN and who had been admitted to an inpatient research center filled out the questionnaire. The criteria for exercise dependence included loss of control over exercise, attempts to cut down or stop exercising, excessive amount of time spent exercising, and exercising instead of important social activities. Although 22% of the women met at least 5 criteria for dependent behavior in exercising, 50% met at least 3 criteria. The two most common areas were excessive time spent exercising (61%), and exercising instead of engaging in important social activities (42%). Dr. Bennett and his colleagues presented their findings at the Eating Disorders Research Society meeting in Charleston, SC, last November.

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