My Year To Thrive

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." ~Maya Angelou

OCD & Exercise


“Torture: knowing something makes no sense, but doing it anyways.”
~ Corey Ann Haydu, OCD Love Story

(source: “OCD & Keeping Weight Loss Off For Life“)

This is a blog about mental health & running/exercise, so since I blogged about running Tuesday & OCD yesterday, today I thought I would go over how those things overlap.

A cursory search of the googles brought up the mixed bag of exercise & OCD.  While it’s helpful, in moderation, moderation isn’t really known to be OCD’s strong suit; it can quickly turn into a compulsion.

OCD is an anxiety disorder.  Exercise has been pretty well shown to be beneficial for anxiety, as well as boasting other positive mental health benefits(Except for when you panic during a 5K race because there are too many people.)  A small study in 2009 looked at the effects on OCD symptoms after a single exercise session.  It followed 15 patients with OCD over a 12 weeks intervention period.  It was a follow-up to a  2007 similar study showing positive benefits of exercise on OCD after a 12 week study.

Participants reported reductions in negative mood, anxiety, and OCD symptoms at the end of each exercise session relative to the beginning. Changes in the magnitude of the effect of exercise in reducing negative mood and anxiety remained fairly stable while levels of self-reported obsessions and compulsions decreased over the duration of the intervention. Results of this study point toward the promising effect of exercise for acute symptom reduction in patients with OCD.

These studies are about the only thing I could find specific to OCD, but I did run across this slide show presentation about OCD & exercise.

Most of what I found in that vein was about compulsive exercising.  Kids’ Health uses Melissa the track fanatic as an opener for

Compulsive exercise (also called obligatory exercise and anorexia athletica) is best defined by an exercise addict’s frame of mind: He or she no longer chooses to exercise but feels compelled to do so and struggles with guilt and anxiety if he or she doesn’t work out. Injury, illness, an outing with friends, bad weather — none of these will deter those who compulsively exercise. In a sense, exercising takes over a compulsive exerciser’s life because he or she plans life around it.

Compulsive exercising can occur alongside an eating disorder.  The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders notes in “When working out shifts from a healthy habit to obsession” the compulsive thoughts, unrealistic expectations, & rituals related to eating disorders & compulsive exercising are analogous to those of OCD.

For a bit of a personal perspective (because me obsessing over exercising looks more like hours on my ass researching, reading about, talking about, & blogging about running, or whatever has my focus at the time)  I ran across an OCD forums post about exercise addiction.

I’m going to close on a trainer’s blog post, “OCD & Keeping Weight Loss Off for Life“.  He doesn’t seem to be specifically referencing people with clinical OCD, but people who have traits of OCD.  However, I identified with the inability to focus on more than one thing at a time & the belief if you can’t do something to the nth degree, there’s no point in doing it at all.

In a nutshell his advice is to start small, don’t set up unrealistic expectations & burn out; pick one thing to change at a time, take your time, & don’t get thrown off track if you’re not perfect; &, keep setting new goals to stay motivated, vary your activities & your training to avoid burn-out & injury, & try new things.  Good ideas for everybody!


Author: despitemyself

A person in flux.

2 thoughts on “OCD & Exercise

  1. I think I need to write that last bit and put it up on my wall somewhere. It’s something I need to always remember.

  2. I have found that exercise has helped with maintaining a more stable mood. I can see how easily it would be to turn my complete focus on exercise and diet, though, and I’m already struggling a bit not to feel guilty if I don’t do as much one day or miss a day entirely.

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