Athletes often struggle with eating disorders because many sports place an extreme emphasis on body weight and/or shape. Denial is often the hardest struggle with these individuals because they consider their disordered eating as a significant component to excel in their sport. In addition, individuals that support these athletes such as their coaches, parents, and teachers often do not recognize there is a problem. Not being aware of certain warning signs could lead to encouragement of negative behaviors without realizing the associated risks.


Athletes are often perfectionists in their sport, and this characteristic may drive the eating disorder in several avenues. High-risk sports associated with an increased susceptibility to develop an eating disorder include figure skating, ballet/dancing, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, cheerleading, wrestling, and football. The physical and behavior symptoms could present as anorexia and or bulimia, therefore creating comparable health concerns. As in all eating disorders, awareness of a healthy drive to succeed in one’s sport compared to behaviors that may lead to severe health problems could mean the difference between life and death.


Contrary to what many people believe, it is possible to exercise too much. Compulsive Over-Exercising is a behavior commonly accompanying anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder, but could also be present in the other eating disorders. The main drive for an individual suffering from this compulsion may be to burn calories, relieve guilt associated from eating or bingeing, or even the feeling of allowing oneself to eat. Considered another form of purging, the behavior of over-exercising may give a feeling of power, sense of control and even self-respect.


  • Amenorrhea (Irregular or loss of menstrual cycle)

  • Bone Fractures

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia


  • The individual feels extreme guilt if he/she cannot exercise

  • Rigid exercise schedule; will find time to work out over other social activities

  • Social isolation

  • Working out for hours at a time (beyond what is considered safe)

  • Working out with an injury

  • Working out if physically sick

  • Worsening eating disorder symptoms


Although these are typical symptoms please note, not all must be present to exhibit the severity of the eating disorder.



  • Bone Fractures

  • Arthritis

  • Damage to ligaments and/or cartilage

  • Muscular Atrophy

  • This disorder is often accompanied with other eating disorders, which will determine the increased health risks. Reference the other eating disorders to identify similarities in your or your loved one’s behavior.


Psychiatric conditions commonly co-occurring with Compulsive Over Exercising combined with:

  • Depression

  • Panic/Anxiety disorders

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Substance abuse disorder (especially in body altering forms: Testosterone & Androgenic-Anabolic Steroids (AAS), HGH, Synthol, Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF), Clenbuterol, Thyroxin (T4), and any other physical body altering substance.

    This disorder is often accompanied with other eating disorders, which will determine behaviors and physical symptoms the increased health risks.

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