You think you’re addicted to dance? You might be right

Dancing is healthy and highly beneficial for most of us. Yet, as any other rewarding activity, too much dancing can have negative effects on the dancer’s life – and it’s not just foot blisters. Similar to exercise dependence, dance addiction can be described as a craving that results in uncontrollable excessive dancing.

Several research studies suggest that psychopathology – in other words, mental health issues – may be present in dance addiction. The distorted body image and a never-ending quest for a thinner waistline are pretty obvious. In addition, dancers often continue to dance despite discomfort, “because of the embedded subculture in dance that embraces injury, pain, and tolerance.” A team of researchers from Hungary and the UK tested 447 ballroom and salsa dancers to see whether excessive dancing is associated with damage to the mental health. The dancers took several tests, the main one being the Dance Addiction Inventory test (see below how you score). Plus, the researchers assessed dancers’ motivation and mental health, including symptoms of an eating disorder.

You think you’re addicted to dance? You might be right

Five classes of dancers based on addiction levels

The results revealed five classes of dancers: Classes 1, 2 and 3 encompassed low to moderate risk dancers. About one-quarter of the study participants reported high values on seven criteria of addiction but no conflict with the social environment (Class 4). Finally, 11% of dancers belonged to the most problematic Class 5, scoring high on all addiction symptoms. Members of this last group also had eating disorders twice as often as of any other group. It is hard to say what’s the cause and what’s the effect: Whether the purpose of excessive dancing is weight-control, or the motivation to perform leads to disturbances in eating patterns. We are sure future research will find it out.

Escapism as a motivational factor was an especially strong indicator of dance addiction. Escapism in this context means dancing in order to avoid feeling empty or to deal with everyday problems. The authors deduce that to some, dance addiction may be a maladaptive mechanism of coping with life issues. Luckily, the number of such people is low.

Mind you, the authors warn against over-pathologising the behavior. Most of us will relate to frequently feeling an urge to dance, or being moody if we have to skip a class. It does not necessarily make us junkies; often it just means we love what we do.

Full publication: Maraz, A., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). An empirical investigation of dance addiction. PloS one, 10(5), e0125988

See for yourself: Scoring high on all criteria might be a reason for concern

Criteria Rate on a scale 1 to 5, where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree
Salience Dance is the most important thing in my life
Conflict with social environment Conflicts have arisen between me and my family and/or my partner about the amount of dancing I do
Mood enhancement I use dancing as a way of changing my mood
Tolerance Over time I have increased the amount of dancing I do in a day
Withdrawal symptoms If I have to miss a dance session I feel moody and irritable
Relapse If I cut down the amount of dancing I do, and then start again, I always end up exercising as often as I did before
Craving I feel a constant urge to dance


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