They tried to make me go to rehab

Can you be addicted to running?  The word is often bandied about among runners, half joking half serious.  To meet the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) diagnosis for substance (alcohol and drug) dependence a person must exhibit a cluster of specific symptoms all within the same year.  Neither the DSM-IV bible of mental disorders nor the International Classification for Disorders (ICD-9) has a primary category for exercise addiction.

For fun, I have taken the liberty of modifying the DSM substance dependence criteria to create my own diagnostic category for “Running Addiction”.  In keeping with the DSM model, three or more of the following seven symptoms occurring in a twelve month time period indicates a maladaptive pattern of running.

  1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of running to achieve runner’s high or desired effect.
    (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued running at the same frequency/intensity.
  2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    (a) Withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, guilt, anxiety, or psychomotor agitation. 
    (b) Participating in similar activities to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  3. Running at greater intensity or duration than was intended.
  4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control frequency/intensity of running.
  5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to run (such as visiting doctors/physiotherapists/massage therapists/chiropractors/acupuncturists or driving long distances to get to a run), actually running, or recover from the effects of running.
  6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of running.
  7. Running is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by running.

Humm.  This is not good.  Not good at all.  I think I will rename this affliction “Running Passion” instead of “Running Addiction”.  I feel better already.

 Title Reference:  Amy Winehouse – Rehab.  From the album Back to Black.  2006.


8 responses to “They tried to make me go to rehab

  1. Great post. Although I did not create a new DSM category, I did examine why a lot of runners seem to have addictive personalities yesterday. Check out and out let me know what you think.

    • I will definitely check it out. I had also considered approaching this topic from an obession-compulsion viewpoint.

      Now to determine cause and effect: does running lead to mental disorders or do mental disorders lead one to running ;)?

  2. Fellow Run Enthusiast

    I see nothing in here regarding denial… but denial somehow starts me thinking on how neat it would be to run the Nile – now that’s one long run 😉

  3. I do not have a problem. I can stop any time. I run alone… on the trails… at night because I ENJOY it. Just because I demand immediate, efficacious results from all segments of the health care system does not make me an “addict.”

    I can’t help it if you have a problem. I certainly don’t.

    – Dean

  4. psychologyofsuccess

    I practice Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and I know many people who feel the same way you guys do.

  5. i agree with ur assessment

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