Adrenaline Addiction

Isn’t it interesting how our personal temperaments can be so vastly different among one another? There are the super cautious types, the crazy risk-seeking types and varying degrees of these polar extremes populating the rest of the personality spectrum. Who knows what genetic markers buried deep in our DNA may fuel a particular personality type? A long family line of stoic, calm ancestors may dominate your personality, as can a family history full of thrill seekers.

When it comes to the thrill seeker types, there is a fine line between what is considered normal behavior and pathological behavior. Those who consistently seek out opportunities to experience the rush of adrenaline that comes from pushing the envelope outside comfort zones and into sensation-seeking may find themselves addicted to the chemical rush that accompanies such activities.

The reality about adrenaline addiction is that is aligns closely with individuals who acquire an addiction to stimulants, such as caffeine, cocaine, Adderall, or methamphetamine. The search for that elevated sensory experience, where thoughts are sharpened, wit is impressive, and efficiency and productivity are elevated can result in a chemical dependency or behavioral compulsions that ultimately are rooted in an adrenaline addiction.

What is Adrenaline Addiction?

When an individual is exposed to a situation that incites feelings of fear, excitement, anger, or any intense emotion the hypothalamus, a tiny region in the brain, will set off a surge in adrenaline, or the fight or flight event. This is an ancestral trait dating back to the beginnings of man, when this physiological surge in brain chemicals would prompt either a flight to safety or an impulse to fight. Humans continue to be hardwired for this fight or flight experience when faced with something that triggers strong feelings.

During the moment when the individual experiences this adrenaline rush, a series of bodily responses occur. A racing heart, sweaty palms, shallow breathing, and sharp mental alertness are hallmarks of the fight or flight response. Some people find this physical state of high alert to be a desirable condition that they may seek to experience on a regular basis. These folks will seek out activities or situations that will stoke an adrenaline rush, commonly referred to as “adrenaline junkies.”

Some of the sensation-seeking behaviors might involve dangerous activities, such as sky diving, rope jumping, rock climbing, zip lining, bungee jumping, race car driving, motocross, and cave spelunking; any activity that can elicit feelings of fear will be sought out by the adrenaline junkie.

When the behaviors become compulsive, and the individual cannot control the need to indulge in high-risk behaviors as he or she chases the adrenaline rush, an addiction has developed. Adrenaline addiction, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening consequences as the envelope gets continually pushed. Physically, prolonged elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, can cause adverse health effects, such as anxiety, depression, digestive conditions, weight gain, sleep disturbance, and heart disease.

Traits of an Adrenaline Addict

One may conjure up an image of a strong, athletic man bravely embracing high-risk sports and activities for the rush that comes with the fear factor as the epitome of an adrenaline junkie. While this can represent the profile of a someone hooked on adrenaline, this is only one depiction of the people who suffer from this affliction.

Many highly successful go-getters in business are adrenaline junkies, approaching each day with an invisible flame fueling them from behind. They seem to always be in a state of urgency, rushing around with inadequate time reserves to handle their long list of duties. Some people work best under that kind of pressure, and become accustomed to the rush of adrenaline that fuels their workdays.

Some people may find their source of adrenaline via drama, stoking personal conflicts among friends and family members to rev up the tension in their lives. Drama becomes a catalyst for this person’s sense of purpose in life, as they stir the pot daily for the next shot of adrenaline that results from these interpersonal machinations and disruptions.

Some people select occupations that will supply them with ample sources of adrenaline rushes. These careers might include firefighters, police officers, stunt men or women, and military personnel. They are attracted to jobs that are exciting, never redundant, and have a certain amount of inherent danger involved.

Treatment for Adrenaline Addiction

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for individuals struggling with an adrenaline addiction. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that combines the treatment of thought patterns with treatment for the disordered compulsive behaviors. In CBT, the therapist guides clients to examine the driving thoughts behind the compulsive seeking of thrills or danger in order to experience an adrenaline rush.

Once the connection is made between the thought distortions and the subsequent maladaptive behaviors, the therapist will help the client learn new, productive ways to channel the thoughts that provoke some subliminal need for risk-taking towards positive thoughts that lead to constructive behaviors, versus dangerous ones.

Holistic Methods to Treat Adrenaline Addiction

Chronic stress, which is activated by the sensation-seeking behaviors, is highly deleterious to one’s health and mental well-being. Over time, the overactive stress hormones will begin to take a toll on health. To help manage stress there are several holistic activities to include in the daily routine. These might include:

  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness training
  • Massage therapy
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Prayer or meditation
  • Guided imagery podcasts

In addition to including these practices into a healthy lifestyle, it is helpful to also include a revamp of dietary intake. Nutrition is key in building up the immune system that has been depleted due to elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol. In addition, getting regular exercise, a minimum of 20 minutes four times per week, is an essential element in restoring overall health.

The Treatment Specialist Locates Treatment Services for Adrenaline Addiction

The Treatment Specialist is a free treatment locator service for individuals seeking help for a behavioral addiction such as adrenaline addiction. The highly trained specialists will assess your specific treatment needs and then guide you toward the appropriate treatment program from a wide network of service providers. For more information about how The Treatment Specialist can help, please contact us today at (866) 644-7911.

About the Author

Marissa Katrin Maldonado

Marissa Katrin Maldonado has been working in the field of addiction and behavioral health since 2006. She has been dedicated to helping individuals and families find treatment for addiction, dual diagnosis, mental health, and eating disorder conditions. Marissa received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University and her Masters Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Management at the University of Redlands, School of Business.

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