Drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, shopping… they’re not the only potential addictions. “Adrenaline junkies” are addicted to the rush when the “fight or flight” mentality kicks in; here, the mind produces powerful neurochemicals on which some become dependent. The result is an addiction to certain activities, situations or sports that make the brain produce these chemicals, provide a high and produce a fix.
Effects of adrenaline
Adrenaline Addicts describe it as living their lives “wired,” and if you’ve ever been on a roller coaster, you’ve felt this before. We also feel an adrenaline rush when fears or stress is heightened, such as a robbery or a near car accident. Or during a heated argument or when hearing exciting news. Or when passionately playing an action sport or video game. And of course, anyone who has been skydiving or swimming with sharks has definitely felt adrenaline.
When adrenaline rushes through the body, it brings on a surge of power. Our temperature rises, our senses are heightened and pain is diminished — that’s why when someone is horribly hurt physically, it’s often immediately numbed, tricking the brain into thinking, at first, there’s no pain. Once the adrenaline wears off, however, we feel it. But for addicts, that initial feelings leaves them wanting more, more frequently.
Fear is a strong emotion
Those addicted to neurochemicals naturally produced in the body are thrill-seekers who will do anything to feel adrenaline. And just like with drug addicts, cravings can turn dangerous.
“Fear is an incredibly strong emotion,” Dr. Michael Davis of Emory University told Psychology Today. “If something scares us, the body immediately releases endorphins, dopamine and norepinephrine… the more fearful a certain sport makes you, the greater the release of these chemicals. The greater the release of these chemicals, the greater the addiction-like symptoms.”
Adrenaline junkies make use of the natural substances that can resemble drugs: cocaine causes an increase of dopamine in the brain; seed produces a substance similar to norepinephrine. And the body doesn’t slack off while producing these chemicals — scientists have discovered that the most common endorphin produced by the human body is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Slow down, relax
Someone who lives their life “wired” may not know he or she has a problem, but life is often chaotic and stressful — and yet he or she thrives on the stress. Other warning signs of adrenaline addiction include:
- Drinking 3 or more caffeinated drinks daily
- Frequent offensive driving behavior, such as tailgating, speeding or road rage
- Constant scheduling of appointments, meetings and events with little down time in-between, and always on-the-go
- Frequently causing drama between him or herself and others, or knowingly putting him or herself into stressful situations
- Takes on the image of a high roller/risk-taker
It’s important to learn stress reduction technique, and Adrenaline Addicts Anonymous is a 12-Step program that helps this kind of addict. It’s also important to understand why Adrenaline addicts live wired, and to investigate and treat any underlying pain that has caused them to hide behind the rush.