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Not running can cause withdrawal symptoms similar to drug withdrawal.
Running is an undeniably worthy pastime, allowing participants to slash through calories, fire-up their cardiovascular abilities and get a boost of energy. Being cut-off from the sport however, be it due to other obligations, an injury or pre-marathon rest, can cause a host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Severe withdrawal may be cause for alarm, as it could signify an addiction to running.
All in the Mind
Running can act as a natural anti-depressant, as the exertion releases neurotransmitters such as endorphins and dopamine that provide the runner with a pleasurable feeling of accomplishment. Halting running cuts off this supply of feel-good chemicals, causing some runners to experience varying degrees of depression. They may be on edge, feeling anxious, tense or restless. Runners experiencing withdrawal may be hard for others to be around, as they may be easily irritated and have a short temper.
Rest days are days when the runner takes a break in order to allow the muscles to build and recover. Withdrawal symptoms are less likely to occur on days when the runner is expecting to take a break, according to On the Run Events. However, when unexpected events occur which prevent the runner from running, the runner may experience withdrawal symptoms, as well as strong feelings of guilt. Though runners may try to compensate for off-days by running for longer on on-days, this practice does not necessarily assuage negative feelings, according to the "Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology."
Runners may experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by heroin users who are attempting to stop using drugs. A study led by Tufts University in Boston done on rats, who have a similar nervous system to humans, showed that the more the rats ran, the worse their withdrawal symptoms were they were given naloxone, a medicine which produces immediate withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms in the running rats resembled heroin withdrawal, and included trembling, writhing, chattering teeth and drooping eyelids.
Concerns and Considerations
Running can contribute to a balanced lifestyle. Running can become a destructive practice however if it begins to dominate the runner's life. Addicted runners may overtrain and develop overuse injuries, unable to cope with withdrawal symptoms and the guilt of taking a day off. Signs of running addiction may include fatigue, a lack of concentration and skipping appointments or family functions, according to On the Run Events. The addicted runner may need the guidance of a counselor to scale back on running so that it becomes a healthy habit.