Nearly everyone loves a little bit of adrenaline – but how can you tell when adrenaline-seeking behaviors are turning you into an adrenaline junkie?
Horror movies and amusement park rides are designed primarily to get that rush of adrenaline, but there are many other and more damaging behaviors that also produce adrenaline, to the detriment of both the person experiencing the adrenaline and the people around them. Adrenaline is a chemical response in the brain, which means that it can result from a wide range of activities and types of stimulation. When people think of adrenaline, they usually picture extreme sports or activities, like skydiving or mixed martial arts. These of course produce a great amount of adrenaline; however, they are not the only kinds of activities that produce adrenaline in the brain and body.
Activities that can often produce adrenaline include:
- Driving unsafely
- Having sex too quickly or having unsafe sex
- Extreme sports like rock climbing, motorcycle racing, and skydiving
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Picking a fight
- Having an argument
- Debating controversial issues
- Working after procrastination
While not all of these activities are detrimental, the issue with engaging in these activities for the sake of the adrenaline that they produce is introduced once a person becomes dependent on this stimulation and resulting adrenaline. In fact, some people turn to creating stress to get an adrenaline rush: “Of course, those behaviors impose strong negatives. Apart from problems with the behaviors themselves, excessive stress is unhealthy, triggering both adrenaline and cortisol secretion. The more a person does such behaviors, the more s/he feels life is boring without the adrenaline hit, and thus is made the adrenaline junkie, seeking ever more and ever higher highs.” If any of this sounds like you or someone you know and love, it may mean increasing dependence on and addiction to adrenaline itself. It may be time to get help, especially since addiction can be a co-occurring disorder. Consider the following three signs of adrenaline addiction as a way of determining whether or not your adrenaline seeking behaviors are damaging in the long haul.
Sign #1: You Engage in Dangerous Activities for the Rush
Perhaps the clearest sign of adrenaline addiction is when you consistently engage in dangerous or unhealthy activities because of the mental rush that it brings you. This dangerous behavior can take various forms – it could be anything from riding your motorcycle much too fast on the highway to getting drunk in public just to experience the thrill. These are the kinds of behaviors that people typically think of when they imagine what addiction junkies engage in, and are arguably the most detrimental aspect of adrenaline addiction because of the danger it poses to both the addict and those surrounding them. Of course, there is a time and place for more extreme activities – jumping out of an airplane with a parachute, for instance, does not necessarily mean that you are an adrenaline junkie. However, consistently disregarding the safety of both yourself and those around you is a good sign that your adrenaline-related behaviors are getting out of hand and that it is time to get help for these behaviors.
Sign #2: You Tend to Argue Simply for the Rush
Adrenaline addiction does not always require engaging in dangerous physical activities. You can get an adrenaline rush simply from the way you interact with other people, which is why going unchecked as an adrenaline junkie can be detrimental not only to yourself but also to your relationships with other people. People who love adrenaline a little too much will use other people to get that rush – by causing conflict, instigating arguments, creating drama, and even exploding at other people in anger or frustration. Research has shown that the brain gets both a dopamine and adrenaline rush from being right in an argument: “In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. When you argue and win, your brain floods with different hormones: adrenaline and dopamine, which makes you feel good, dominant, even invincible. It’s the feeling any of us would want to replicate. So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.” It may be normal to experience this minimal type of rush, but this can be detrimental and turn into a sign of adrenaline addiction when you begin arguments or cause fights solely as a means of getting this rush. In the long-term, this is sure to prove detrimental to both your own psychological health and the health of your relationships.
Sign #3: You Have an Overly Busy Schedule
While not the most dramatic sign of adrenaline addiction, having a packed schedule and rushing around is perhaps one of the most common signs that adrenaline has become an issue in your life. This is not to say that every businesswoman or soccer dad that runs from morning to night is necessarily an adrenaline junkie. The sign is more in how you handle a busy schedule. Those who are busy by necessity will be grateful for a break when they get a weekend morning to sleep in or a relaxing evening in with their loved ones. An adrenaline junkie, in contrast, will continually add more to their schedule or list of responsibilities if things begin to slow down. Nearly everyone has busy seasons in their life, but when adrenaline addiction is an issue in your life this busyness may continue unabated for years at a time. To give some perspective on what this looks like, we can turn to the personal story of an elementary school principal: “Long hours came with the territory. I thought nothing of putting in 10-hours in school, then doing more when I got home each evening. Most of my weekend time was spent working too – a heavy teaching commitment, in addition to my leadership role, demanded many hours of my time. I loved seeing my pupils thrive, but I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my health. Eventually, I suffered burnout. I decided to leave education and take my life in a different direction. I thought I’d be happy and relaxed, but instead I fell into depression and anxiety. I was experiencing the classic symptoms of adrenaline addiction and withdrawal.” This tendency to overstuff a schedule and overwork is arguably one of the most difficult symptoms of adrenaline addiction to recognize, since it can often appear as a necessity. If you suspect that you may be exhibiting this sign, take some time to step back and ask yourself some of the following questions moving forward:
- Do you procrastinate on projects and then get excited to finish them quickly?
- Do you ever say no to projects, activities, or social events?
- Do you have time, either in the morning or at night, to relax on your own?
- Do you have time set aside every day with your family or loved ones?
- When things start to slow down, do you tend to take on more responsibilities and projects?
What to Do if You Think You Are an Adrenaline Junkie
Not all of the signs of adrenaline addiction described above are necessarily dangerous, but they can all be detrimental to both physical and mental health if they go unchecked. If you think you may be an adrenaline junkie, it is likely that your adrenaline seeking behaviors are wreaking havoc on both your personal and professional life – not to mention your emotional health. Thankfully, individual counseling for addiction can be very helpful in overcoming the detrimental effects of unhealthy adrenaline seeking behaviors. One-on-one counseling involves exploring the root of the addiction, giving the opportunity for honest introspection about what life experiences and mental processes have given way to adrenaline addiction. If you are an adrenaline junkie, you do not have to be resigned to the unhealthy and even dangerous behaviors that you have engaged in previously. Processing what led you to this point can undoubtedly help you get on the right path to a healthier, happier and more stable life. If you still have questions about what it means to be an adrenaline junkie, or if you have a story to share about adrenaline addiction, feel free to either leave a comment below or contact us directly.