Digital Recordings

Addicted to Exercise: When Movement Takes a Dangerous Turn

Whether on its own or in collision with another mental health problem, pathological exercise is a serious and debilitating condition. Similar to substance use disorder, compulsive exercise can serve as a maladaptive coping strategy in response to increased arousal, hypervigilance, cognitive ruminations, and other trauma-related symptoms. Yet, in a society that glorifies more as better, movement that takes a turn to compulsive—and dangerous—is far too often missed and dismissed. Further, the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pathological movement—a process addiction—can be complicated by the fact that balanced exercise provides clear health and healing benefits. From both a professional and patient perspective, this presentation discusses the intersection of exercise, trauma, substance use disorders, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide.

Utilizing neuroscience findings, the personality and temperament traits that increase an individual’s risk of developing compulsive exercise in response to trauma will be described. This unique presentation discusses evidence-based as well as alternative treatment approaches.


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Nicole Garber, MD |  Jenni Schaefer
2 Hours 27 Minutes
Audio and Video
Sep 08, 2020
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Digital Recordings - Also available: DVD



This online program is worth 2.5 hours CPD.



Nicole Garber, MD's Profile

Nicole Garber, MD Related seminars and products

Nicole Garber, MD, completed her general psychiatric residency at Emory School of medicine and her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine. She is double board certified in general psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. In addition, she has completed advanced trainings in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, mentalization based therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. She began her career at the Menninger Clinic where she developed the adolescent eating disorder track in addition to being an attending psychiatrist on the COMPASS Unit and providing individual therapy for 3 patients on the unit, and running 2 DBT groups per week. She then was the chief of the pediatric and adolescent eating disorder program at Rosewood Center for Eating Disorders. She was the medical director at Arizona’s Children’s Association where she is currently a member of the board. She is currently the Chief of Psychiatry at The Meadows Ranch. In addition to providing psychiatric care, supervising the medical and psychiatric providers, she also facilitates DBT groups weekly.

Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Nicole Garber is the Chief of Psychiatry at The Meadows Ranch.
Non-financial: Nicole Garber is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Jenni Schaefer's Profile

Jenni Schaefer Related seminars and products

The Meadows

Jenni Schaefer is a Senior Fellow at Meadows Behavioral Healthcare and an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. She graduated summa cum laude from Texas A&M University with a degree in biochemistry, and she knows firsthand the devastating consequences of an eating disorder. Since recovering from her own eating disorder, she has carried her message of self-acceptance and triumph over adversity to the public.

Jenni is the author of several books, including Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too, and she has contributed to anthologies like the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A sought-after speaker on addiction and food disorders, relationships, depression, and career, Jenni has appeared on Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, the TODAYShow and Entertainment Tonight, as well as in print coverage from Cosmopolitan and The New York Times. She is also a blogger for The Huffington Post, and her work has appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Glamour, Shape, The Washington Times, Woman’s World, Seventeen, and more.

Speaker Disclosures:

Financial: Jenni Schaefer receives a consulting fee from Meadows Behavioral Healthcare, and she receives royalties as a published author. receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.

Non-financial: Jenni Schaefer is a senior fellow of The Meadows and an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. She is a member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the Academy for Eating Disorders, and The International Association of eating Disorders Professionals Foundation.

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Program Information

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  1. Distinguish the brain changes associated with trauma that increase an individual’s risk for developing substance use disorders and pathological exercise.
  2. Assess the personality traits and temperaments that increase an individual’s risk for developing pathological exercise in response to trauma.
  3. Evaluate the association between the aberrant emotional regulation that often occurs in posttraumatic stress disorder, pathological exercise, and substance use disorder.
  4. Investigate the association between pathological exercise, substance use disorders, and the increased risk of suicidal behaviours.
  5. Distinguish both evidence-based and alternative treatment approaches for individuals impacted by trauma-related disorders and pathological exercise.



Professional Perspective

  • Setting the Stage: How trauma can change the brain and how exercise, other process addictions, and substance use can become maladaptive coping strategies.
  • Define compulsive exercise; address underlying temperament and history traits that make it more likely that someone will develop compulsive exercise.
  • Discuss diagnostic criteria for compulsive exercise, including screening questions and specific assessment tools.
  • Describe neuroscience findings: trauma affects reward and habit circuitry that may contribute to compulsive exercise and other addictive disorders.
  • Discuss the increased risk of suicide with both addictive disorders and compulsive exercise.
  • Describe treatment approaches for compulsive exercise.

Patient Perspective

  • Share personal story of seeking treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder after recovering from anorexia nervosa (binge/purge type)—complicated by pathological exercise.
  • Explain the positive and negative experiences of treatment with a succession of providers and modalities.
  • Identify practical skills for developing a balanced relationship with exercise within the realm of both eating disorder and PTSD recovery.

Questions and Answers

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Physicians
  • Addiction Counselors
  • Therapists
  • Marriage & Family Therapists
  • Nurses
  • Case Managers
  • Other Mental Health Professionals


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