People with eating disorders are 3.9 times as likely as other people to be addicted to exercise, according to new research data compiled in nine studies from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Italy.

“It is known that those with eating disorders are more likely to display addictive personality and obsessive-compulsive behaviors,” said study leader Mike Trott, who works in sport science at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. “We are also aware that having an unhealthy relationship with food often means an increased amount of exercising, but this is the first time that a risk factor has been calculated.”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder. Men are not immune to these disorders, either. Ten million people diagnosed with an eating disorder are men.

Eating Disorders and Exercise Addiction

Obsessive exercise is frequent with people who have disorders such as anorexia athletica,  bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder. These disorders all involve exercise as well as weight and body-mass control. People with anorexia or bulimia tend to restrict calories to the extreme. People with body dysmorphic disorder may try to put on mass through obsessive weightlifting and protein intake as well as sometimes illegal supplements containing steroids.

People who are addicted to exerciser will lift weights, run, do sit-ups or lunges obsessively. They will continue to workout regardless of any injury or pain and their life will revolve around working out.

One reason that people develop eating disorders is out of a belief that their body isn’t good enough. Today, people are heavily influenced by “social media stars” that make unrealistic claims and suggest strenuous workout schedules. In the past, it was magazine models and workout magazines.

Eating Disorders and Drug Addiction

Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol also suffer from eating disorders. For many women who struggle with anorexia/bulimia, an addictive substance may be part of the problem. For example, many people with eating disorders abuse stimulants to help curb their appetites.

These types of stimulants can do heart damage as well as damage other organs. An eating disorder already taxes the heart because it’s not getting the energy and nutrients it needs to power the body. When a person starves, their body starts to shut down.

Addiction to anything can be dangerous, but when combined with an eating disorder, it can cause permanent damage to your body. If you or somebody you love suffers from an eating disorder, please call the number at the top of the page for more information.