Alexithymia, rash impulsiveness, and reward sensitivity in relation to symptoms of exercise dependence in physically active young adults

Michael F. Lyvers, Taylor Sweetnam, Fred Thorberg

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Abstract

Objective
Exercise dependence refers to excessive exercise accompanied by addiction-like symptoms such as craving, tolerance, withdrawal, impaired control, and disruption of life domains. The present study investigated whether personality traits linked to substance and behavioural addictions show similar associations with symptoms of exercise dependence.

Method
Alexithymia and two forms of impulsivity, rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity, were assessed in relation to exercise dependence symptoms in a sample of 99 physically active young adult men and women.

Results
All three traits showed significant positive correlations with exercise dependence symptoms and were significant predictors of such symptoms in a hierarchical regression model. Alexithymia was the strongest predictor and fully mediated the contribution of rash impulsiveness according to bootstrapped mediation analysis.

Conclusions
Findings suggest similar associations of addiction-linked traits with symptoms of exercise dependence and are discussed in terms of potential mechanisms.

KEY POINTS

What is already known about this topic:

(1) Exercise can become compulsive for some, with exercise dependence defined by addiction-like symptoms.

(2) Alexithymia has been implicated as a risk factor for substance and behavioural addictions.

(3) Two forms of impulsivity, rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity, have been implicated as risk factors for substance and behavioural addictions.

What this topic adds:

(1) In physically active young adults, alexithymia was positively associated with symptoms of exercise dependence.

(2) In physically active young adults, rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity were positively associated with symptoms of exercise dependence.

(3) Alexithymia fully explained the association of rash impulsiveness with exercise dependence symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-485
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Volume73
Issue number4
Early online date4 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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