Anorexia Athletica

Author: Christina Matthews RN, CPT, CFC
We've all heard of the common eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and I'm sure that at some point in your life you have known or will know someone who suffers from an eating disorder. A new disorder, however, has begun to emerge, and although it is not yet a recognized diagnosis, it is equally dangerous and carries its own consequences. This new disorder is called anorexia athletica, or compulsive exercising. A person suffering from anorexia athletica exercises for an amount of time or an intensity that is beyond normal. This person will exercise compulsively in an attempt to control weight in a misguided attempt to gain a sense of power, control, and self-respect.

Symptoms of anorexia athletica include:
· Exercising beyond the requirements for good health
· Being fanatical about weight and diet
· Stealing time from work, school, and relationships to exercise
· Focusing on challenge and forgetting
that physical activity can be fun
· Defining self-worth in terms of performance
· Rarely or never being satisfied with athletic achievements
· Always pushing on to the next challenge
· Justifying excessive behaviour by defining self as an athlete or insisting that their behaviour is healthy

This disorder is most often recognized in competitive athletes, but it can affect anyone with a preoccupation with weight and/or diet. If you are someone you know exhibits these signs you can get help through:
· Your family doctor
· Bellwood Health Services Inc. 1-800-387-6198
· Eating Disorder Foundation of Canada (1453 Richmond) 434-6014

The anorexia bulimia net. [On-line]. (n.d.). Available: [2003, June 1].
Varcarolis, E. (1998). Foundations of psychiatric mental health nursing. (3rded.).
Toronto, ON: W.B. Saunders Company.