Friday, December 11, 2015

It's an addiction...

Today I went for my annual checkup. It was the quickest pap smear and exam I've ever had. Kind of like going through the gynecological drive through. My doctor had an emergency in the hospital but wanted to see me before he left. We made small talk while he checked me over, and I told him I ran the Chicago marathon again this year.

Usually, he takes me to his office after the exam to chat, but today we talked in the exam room.


"Everything looks good," blah blah blah. And then he said something that gave me pause.

"You know that exercise can be an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol," he said.

I felt a little defensive.

What is it with medical people and judging patients for our lifestyle choices? I once saw an orthopedic surgeon for knee pain and he told me the 20-25 miles/week that I run was excessive. Let me judge you, Dr. Chubs.


What is the expectation for athletes?

Speaking as a fellow medical professional, it's my opinion that most medical professionals don't know what to do with athletes. Athletes come in injured and we pull them from their sport without addressing the mechanics that caused the injury. When patients come in for well checks, there's not a lot for us to tell them. Low pulse, low blood pressure, normal BMI? My NP training was all about treating illness and disease. Sure, we learn about prevention. We are supposed to promote prevention. But most of what we do is geared towards steering unhealthy patients towards a healthy lifestyle. What happens when we see a patient who is already doing everything right?

We don't know what to tell them. Instead of praising them for making healthy choices, we tell them they're overdoing it. Maybe we even tell them they have a problem or are addicted.



I looked up the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug addiction and substituted running. I don't want to make light of addiction because it is a very serious problem. You can chase the link if you want to learn more about addiction.

But I have to admit that I found it kind of amusing how well running fit into some of these statements. Tell me you don't have an addiction to running:


  • -Loss of ControlDrinking or drugging Running more than a person wants to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time. Aka marathon training.
  • -Neglecting Other ActivitiesSpending less time on activities that used to be important (hanging out with family and friends, exercising, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of alcohol or drugs running; drop in attendance and performance at work or school. This explains the condition of my house.
  • -Risk Taking: More likely to take serious risks in order to obtain one’s drug of choice run. Running alone in the forest preserve? Running in the dark?
  • -Relationship Issues: People struggling with addiction are known to act out against those closest to them, particularly if someone is attempting to address their substance  running; complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates. I have had some complaints from my sister that I talk too much about running.
  • -SecrecyGoing out of one’s way to hide the amount of drugs or alcohol consumed miles run or one’s activities when drinking or drugging purchases of running gear; unexplained injuries or accidents. I hide my TJMaxx bags in the bottom of the recycling bag.
  • -Changing Appearance: Serious changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance – lack of showering, slovenly appearance, unclean clothes. I will admit to skipping the shower on my days off.
  • -Family History: A family history of addiction can dramatically increase one's predisposition to substance abuse running addiction. Actually, any kind of addiction at all. I know a little bit about this...
  • -Tolerance: Over time, a person's body adapts to a substance running to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction. Yep, 3 miles just don't do it for me anymore.
  • -Withdrawal: As the effect of the alcohol or drugs running wear off the person may experience symptoms such as: anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches. When sidelined for injuries, I have been known to get a little cranky. 
  • -Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Even though it is causing problems (on the 
  • job, in relationships, for one’s health), a person continues drinking and drugging running. 



In all seriousness, I have no doubt that I have an addiction. I love to run. Running makes me happy and it makes me healthy. Over the years, I've gotten smarter about running so that I can stay on the road and out of the doctor's office. I work hard to maintain a balance in my life. Running is an addiction that I'm happy to have. I could have chosen something much worse to be addicted to.

But just like anything you can overdo it. If you think you have a problem, seek help. Here's some more reading that might help you: 


Have you ever been told that you "run too much" by a doctor? Been told that you have an addiction? Do you have any of these signs and symptoms of addiction?

I'm linking up with Jill Conyers today!


72 comments :

  1. I haven't experienced that firsthand with doctors. How annoying! I definitely have some of the "addiction" symptoms. My training is such a part of my day and my schedule that it is the first thing I think about when I'm planning my alarms and commute and daily schedule. But I'd rather have that than go back to work being my only addiction. My email inbox was cleaner but I was fatter with higher cholesterol and less energy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was kind of surprised by this conversation. I don't deny that I'm really compulsive about running.

      Delete
  2. Lol. Find a doc who's also a runner! My Obgyn encouraged me to run throughout pregnancy -- she was a marathoner. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been going to him for over 20 years, which tells you something about his training....He's a good guy tho, but I bet he doesn't have any other patients like me.

      Delete
  3. That's like when the GI I saw in NYC saw that I was a runner with a lower weight and no period and gave me the stink eye. I was like WHY DO YOU THINK I"M HERE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I had no period before I ever ran a step. Imagine!

      Delete
  4. I admit I am sensitive to the term having been around serious addiction, but I do think exercise can become something like it. I definitely had a doctor tell me women should never run more then 25 mpw...oye

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, me too. I grew up around lots of alcoholism. I think that's why this bothered me so much.

      Delete
  5. I don't get any flack from my doctor. In fact, when I had bronchitis, she prescribed me a rescue inhaler because she knew I was going to run anyways.

    And I prefer to think of running as I would taking an anti-depressant. I can take a drug that could have side effects or I can go for a run (which generally does not as I don't get injured often). I'll take the run, thankyouverymuch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! He and I talked about menopause and he was surprised that I'm not having much in the way of symptoms. Hello?

      Delete
  6. Believe it or not, my physician has always encouraged my running. "Go for it," he says. Of course, I am not a marathoner, but training for a half for the first time at age sixty-three? He thought that was just grand. He also says I'm one of his easiest patients. In good shape because I take care of myself.

    For those of us who are borderline (or full-fledged) OCD and lean toward addictive personalities, it can develop into an addiction, but knowing our limits or when it can get out of control is half the problem solved.

    Keep on running!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was a little shocked by my doctor's statement--after all he's known me for over 20 years! But he does occasionally say some weird things.

      Delete
  7. Ugh, I'm sorry that happened to you! I'm with you on the fact that we're taught to promote healthier living habits + focus on preventative health. I definitely agree with you that a lot of health care workers get so used to treating unhealthy patients all the time that sometimes, they're at a loss for what to do with really healthy ones. I like to praise healthy habits, but throw in a gentle reminder on safety if they always seem to be coming in injured!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was surprised too. It's not like I overdo it. I won't deny that I'm a little compulsive, but that's about it. I make a habit of praising my patients who have healthy habits too, especially since I don't see it very often.

      Delete
  8. Great topic...running definitely can have the properties of an addiction! I do know that I talk about running a lot and training can take up a lot of my personal life. Thankfully I don't sign up for races every week like some people out there...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm happy that I have our little circle of runners to discuss running with freely!

      Delete
  9. I've only had docs tell me to stop running when I've been in with an injury. So I went elsewhere. I totally agree with you that medicine needs to shift its focus from prescribing meds to preventing disease in the first place through healthy lifestyle. Running as an addiction? I only see that as a problem if it leads to an eating disorder.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My doctor is former runner/triathlete/BQ'd several times. If i show up in his office injured, he immediately sends me to sports medicine so I can get back exercising. He gets it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least with the sports med doc you get a really good exam to get to the bottom of the problem!

      Delete
  11. I know that over exercising is a thing and can be a serious problem. I remember a friend from high school's mom used to go out and ride her bike all day long when she wasn't training for anything and then come home and refuel with just a glass of wine. I think it's one thing to enjoy exercise and make it an important part of your life, but it's something completely different to make exercise your life and be actually addicted to it to the point where it's unhealthy. I'm surprised your doctor would say something like that to you. He should understand the difference.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have absolutely no doubt that I use activity instead of turning to food to relieve stress. In a sense, it's absolutely trading one addiction for another.

    I also know that I'm a healthier, nicer person (sometimes) for that addiction.

    Almost anything healthy can be taken to extremes.Sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like this is a healthy addiction for most people.

      Delete
  13. Wow! That's crazy! My doctor always says she feels guilty seeing me because I make her feel lazy. I'd find a new one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been seeing him for a long time--I'm going to chalk it up to a bad day for him. But it gave me a great topic for a blog post!

      Delete
  14. almost 40 races in 2015 - I would say that I am addicted. In a good way, right?

    I wish I could addicted to strength training and yoga.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally thought of you when I wrote this post! Yep, healthy is right!

      Delete
  15. I finally found a doctor who is a runner and HE GETS IT. So nice to not have a doc tell me to stop running when something hurts; he's realistic and knows how we are, because he's one of us. Because of him, I got PT for my hamstring instead of 6 weeks off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I'm talking about!!! Love this.

      Delete
  16. I have been told that about working out... usually by people that are struggling with weight & eating healthy - strange, hmm? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. LOL, I think I am totally addicted to running! It makes me think of that med student phenomena when they study all these conditions, illnesses, and diseases and start thinking they have every single one. Too funny!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that happened to me when I was in nursing school!

      Delete
  18. There are certainly worse things to be addicted to right?! Sometimes doctors don't get it at all! I am also addicted to the social part of running and fitness.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great post! I know I am addicted to running! I used to tell my husband years ago that I would stop signing up for races, or this is the last race, but of course I keep signing up for races! I can't stop! Haha!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I had an eating disorder + exercise addiction. I was doing two hours a day, every day, no matter what. I was so messed up in the head. I think we all just need to be real with ourselves and know whether our addiction is a HEALTHY addiction, or if it is literally taking over our brains, our lives, and our happiness.

    I've transformed how I thought about food and exercise and have gotten to a REALLY good place and I am proud of myself for getting myself outside my comfort zone and being UNCOMFORTABLE for quite a long time to fix the way I approached exercise and food. Now when I go to the dr. and get that judgement you speak of, it really freaking pisses me off. I want to scream that I used exercise for 2 hours a day and count every single bit of food I put into my mouth, and that the way I am now- this IS my better. I hate the judgement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I LOVE that you posted this comment. Exercise addiction is a very real thing. I think that's why I was so disturbed by what my doctor said. There's huge difference between what I'm doing and overdoing it.

      Delete
  21. I am probably addicted but I know I have an all or nothing personality, so I need to be careful not to overdo. And also because I was injured in the past from over doing it, I am now more cautious. I have never had a doctor judge me but compliment me... because they rarely see women in their 40s as healthy as I am !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could see how a person could overdo it...but I like to eat too much, so it's not an issue for me!

      Delete
  22. This is a fabulous post and YES so many worse things to be addicted to! I have been lucky enough to have found a doctor that either used to be a runner or knows and appreciates a lot about it. He seems to restrict me just about as far as he knows I can tolerate, which I appreciate. Have yourself a runderful weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking forward to running in our spring like winter tomorrow!

      Delete
  23. Haha...reminds me of a "Top ten signs you're a runaholic" post I wrote for Women's Running...I say that I am addicted to running, but if I couldn't do it, I know that I would have to find a way to substitute something else physical that gives me a runner's high... BTW, that is one of my favorite Kristin Armstrong quotes:)
    I actually asked my internist for a referral to a PT to get some advice of injury prevention / exercises to protect my knee joints. The physical therapist checked me and said my knees are perfectly fine, didn't tell me really anything in particular to do, and still said maybe I'm running too much at 25 miles per week...I'm not going back to her...or referring any of my teen patients to her!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Paria! I was hoping you'd weigh in on this! It's an interesting perspective, being an athlete and a medical provider. Evidence based medicine? We need more studies...

      Delete
  24. Omg this post! When I got injured, people all told me it was good because it would finally stop my "running obsession". I run like 3 times a week and I'm slow. How am I obsessed? I do talk about it a lot and race as much as I can (I probably did 10 this year), but I'm nowhere near addicted. The people who tell me that stuff are the people who never work out or eat healthy. They also tell me they don't run because it's "bad for your knees" and one girl even said that her doctor recommend that she didn't ever start running because it's so bad for your body. It's such a weird dynamic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you get it! I wonder if pursuing something that most people find difficult yet makes us healthy is the reason for all the comments? You are right, it's weird.

      Delete
  25. Hi Wendy. You might want to grab a chair. 2 things come to mind with this post. We're damned if we do damned if we don't. And, a snarky comment made by a lab tech to a lab tech, she runs that far and her hip hurts. What the hell does she expect? News flash! My orthodpedic doctor said this has nothing to do with my current or past running. It's genetics and for the record, one treatment and it hasn't hurt since. And yes Mr. Lab Tech, I'm still running. That has stuck with me and still annoys. Can you tell? Ok. I'm done. Now I'm not even sure if this is a tangent or still related to your post haha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, it's perfect! There's the pursuit of fitness and health, and there's an unhealthy addiction. For most of us, we know where to draw the line. I don't get the comments, and yep, they annoy me too!

      Delete
  26. ROFL, I love this post. Addiction actually is in my genes, so I relate very much to this post.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I had my annual physical 3 days after my last marathon. My doctor asked, "What are you doing for physical activity, do you walk every day?" He kinda walked into that one. He is not anti-running, but he must have said, "I'll never run a marathon!" at least 5 times during my appointment. He can't argue with my numbers though. He hadn't seen me in a year because I'm healthy. He does have a brother-in-law who runs ultras who had a friend die in a car crash because he fell asleep driving home after an ultra. Stories like that, of course, cause concern. But I reassured him that I don't plan on running anything further than a marathon and I listen to my body.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just don't get the negativity from the medical profession. And you running a marathon doesn't have anything to do with your doctor, so it's interesting that he kept commenting on it. Sigh...

      Delete
  28. There's a quote that goes something like "Reality is just a crutch for people that can't handle drugs or alcohol." You can swap 'reality' for 'running' hah! Oh lawdy. Medical professions are THE worst when it comes to being judgmental. Me being the worst of the worst. I judge my patients from their health regimes to their grammar. I am terrible. Oh, and it's not confined to just my patients either :D I admire addicts, most especially SuperHeros like YOU! Just keep on doing what you are doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As medical professionals, we are so used to telling patients how to live their lives that we do tend to be judgmental. Sure doesn't feel good when we are the patients, does it? No wonder we are such bad patients.

      Delete
  29. I sit too much. I don't run too much. I do think you can be addicted to exercise and/or have an unhealthy attitude about running, but there would be other signs besides an overflowing rack of race medals. And, I don't think skipping happy hour or leaving a party early so you can run is an unhealthy choice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right there with you! Or you could dance all night with your younger co-workers like I did last night!

      Delete
  30. I highly suggest finding a doctor who either is a runner or supports runners. I am so thankful that my OB is also a runner (she runs 5ks, but she still "gets" it). I don't know what I would have done if my OB hadn't been supportive of me running while pregnant for as long as I was able to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My internist gets me, and that's a big deal to me. My OB/gyne has been my doctor for 20 years--I'm not going to switch but I have to remember that he's old school...the school of thought is so different now, with running and women.

      Delete
  31. I love Mr. Bean! I think I would have taken offense. When you get down to the nitty gritty, I think everybody is addicted to something. Yes, even the condescending doctor you saw has an addiction. Surely it's better to have a health related one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pretty sure he's addicted to work...which isn't a great addiction to have!

      Delete
  32. So funny! Well you read my wrap up, I admittedly was cranky all week until I could run lol I have all of the symptoms, especially risk taking, would I even consider not running race when I know I am not totally well...no, my thought if I have enough pain to stop me I will stop lol
    My NP always tries to take me into biking and let the impact go. (sigh)
    My Sports Doc loves to remind me I am getting older all the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And if I were you, I'd tell both of them I don't want to hear it! Seriously!

      Delete
  33. Lol! This made me laugh!! I cannot stand (and usually do not return) to health professionals that want to tell me what is "too much". Especially because CrossFit either carries very positive or very negative connotations with the general public!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, this last visit really bothered me! For so many reasons.

      Delete
  34. I agree that there's a pretty good comparison between addiction habits and running. My husband and I both had the same orthopedic surgeon make obnoxious comments about us not needing to exercise. When my husband was 30 years old and went in for a badly sprained ankle, the doctor told Bill he was too old to play basketball or run. Seriously? Bill's run 16 marathons since then and needless to say, neither of us returned to see that doctor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh....I don't even know what to say about that doctor...

      Delete
  35. I agree! Let's stay on the road and out of the doctor's office! I have my follow up with the cardiologist on the 29th and I can hardly wait to hear what he has to say!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fingers crossed for an excellent report!

      Delete