The term adrenaline junkie refers to people who appear to be addicted to the rush of adrenaline that speeds through their bodies when they are in danger, under high stress or in physically exhilarating situations. Some junkies are easy to identify. Often, they are people who thrive on danger, or they risk their lives in extreme sports and high risk behaviours such as hang gliding, mountain climbing or compulsive gambling. Often, they are people who are willing to sacrifice body, health and well-being in order to obtain an adrenaline rush. These people become dependent on the adrenaline jolts they receive during close escapes and peak experiences. Some people even choose professions where they can receive this jolt For example, this would include a war correspondent who puts the risk of obtaining a story above personal health and safety.
Adrenaline is the 'fight, flight or freeze' hormone, an evolutionary adaptation that helps the body cope with dangerous or unexpected situations. A surge of adrenaline increases the heart rate and dilates blood vessels and air passages. This allows the body to pass more blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
The dependency on adrenaline jolts can come in subtle forms. People can become hooked on the rush that comes from stress. Over the years, these people tend to create drama and crises in their lives. For example, people in this category may always find themselves rushing to meet deadlines or filling their work and/or social schedules to capacity. If things slow down, the person will often start taking on more to achieve the rush they feel from the increased stress associated with their frenetic pace.
Adrenaline junkies often create dramatic conflicts with the people in their lives; exploding in anger; waiting until the last minute to complete projects; or, filling any downtime with something to keep them busy. They don't necessarily have to be involved with other people to obtain the adrenalin rush. In the case of 'Gamers', people who play hours and hours of video games, the individual can become addicted to the immediate excitement obtained from the mere click of a button. While these examples may seem extreme, it is a common situation for many people. So how does being an adrenaline junkie affect someone's life?
Adrenaline junkies' low moods can be as deep and dark as their highs are high. Living in these emotionally chaotic circumstances can make it difficult to maintain a normal, functional lifestyle. This person may cut down on sleep and then try to compensate with coffee or stronger drugs. Trying to relax, meditate or do nothing for a significant amount of time will drive an adrenaline junkie 'nuts'. Their 'to do' list is always longer than they can handle. In the worst case scenario, he or she may eventually burnout from the effects of a reckless lifestyle.
Regular conflict and arguments characterize their relationships. Friends and family can become marginalized or abandoned because they are unable to keep up with the seemingly reckless, dramatic lifestyle and the constant need for danger, drama or excitement. Adrenaline junkies can become emotionally walled off from family and friends who don't inhabit their emotionally charged, dangerous world. Adrenaline junkies may only feel fully alive when crisis, drama, excitement, death, loss or defeat looms in the background. The safety of the individual's everyday existence and relationships can begin to feel oppressive and boring and this can seriously interfere with relationships.
What can an adrenaline junkies do to slow down and get off the fast track? They can begin by reducing the crises in their lives. Begin projects sooner and cut down on unnecessary stressful activities so they don't feel so overwhelmed. First steps could include the following suggestions:
- practice relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and yoga to reverse their bodies' stress response;
- set smaller deadlines and pace themselves;
- learn time management skills that will help them develop better habits;
- cut down the stress in their life;
- monitor their stress level by monitoring their level of edginess, impatience, sleep problems and exhaustion;
- pay attention to how often they are engaging in conflict and arguments;
- take regular physical exercise
- learn conflict and anger management skills; and
- limit their coffee or cola intake to one or two cups a day.
Most of us like an adrenaline rush once in a while. We like the occassional rollercoaster ride, bungie jump or zip-line experience. It is a matter of degree. As long as it doesn't disrupt our serenity, interfere with our relationships or endanger our heath and safety, it can add spice to our lives.
Ref: About.com: Stress Management