Personality and behaviour associated with excessive dependence on exercise : some reflections from research
Journal Title: South African Journal of Psychology
Volume: Volume 31
Publication Date: 2001
This paper examines possible links between negative addiction to running and personality variables. More
specifically, it addresses the question of why only certain runners become addicted to running and whether there
is a unique interaction between personality variables and specific reinforcing aspects of running. Drawing on the
results of four studies conducted in an ongoing research programme at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg,
significant trends that have emerged with regard to the personality attributes of addicted runners are highlighted
and explained. In particular, the studies provide preliminary supportive evidence for personality differences
between extremely dependent and non-dependent groups of runners. It appears that excessive dependence on
running is associated with generally rigid, inflexible personality patterns rather than specific personality pathology.
The findings further suggest an association between negative addiction to running and interpersonal difficulties.
Using Theodore Millon's Biosocial learning theory of personality as the conceptual framework for interpreting
these results, this paper offers explanations of how the identified personality pattern of highly dependent runners
interacts with the contextual and physiological variables elicited by running to maintain addictive behaviour.
Finally, this paper suggests a number of directions for future research into excessive exercise dependence.
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