Addiction Addictive Behaviors How to Tell If You're an Adrenaline Junkie By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 17, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Holly Wilmeth / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is an "Adrenaline Junkie?" Research Sensation-Seeking Treatment Have you ever been called an "adrenaline junkie"? The term was first popularly used in the 1991 movie "Point Break" in reference to people who favor high-risk activities for the rush that accompanies them. Related to this phenomenon, many people seek out high-sensation experiences for the neurophysiological effects. When dependence on these experiences is created as a way of managing stressful situations, however, it might be time to seek treatment. What Is an "Adrenaline Junkie?" Physiological mechanisms underlying temperament lead people to seek what feels to them like just the right amount of stimulation in a given situation. This experience of "just the right amount" of stimulation or sensation is deeply interconnected with psychological mechanisms of motivation and varies across people with different personality traits. In fact, a 2016 study of parachute jumpers found that personality is the greatest predictor of whether a person is likely to undertake risky behavior. High anxiety sensation seeking may characterize the so-called "adrenaline junkie." The Science Behind the Need for Stimulation Capacity for cognitive control is impaired or enhanced depending on whether a given task requires suppression of or attention to various motivational cues, according to a 2010 study. The neurobiology behind these processes is complicated and many brain areas are implicated. Activation of the stress response is thought to drive compulsive behavior through negative reinforcement mechanisms. Release of norepinephrine in the amygdala, the area of the brain activated during the stress response, may represent a key component of the transition to dependence, according to a 2009 study. Meanwhile, another study focused on the avoidance-type behaviors often found in PTSD. In this 2018 animal study, researchers found that stimulation of the amygdala leads to a decrease in avoidance behaviors. The term "adrenaline junkie" may have you thinking that the noradrenergic system alone is implicated in sensation-seeking behavior. A 2017 review explores how the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, also have a huge impact on the ability to regulate impulsivity and risk-taking. The review also examines how the systems which involve these neurotransmitters are dysregulated in people with substance use disorders. Meanwhile, a 2016 study of so-called adrenaline junkies such as rock climbers found that regular climbers experienced frequent and intense craving states and negative affect when they stopped climbing, similar to individuals with substance use disorders. Everyday Sensation-Seeking You don’t have to be a bank robber, skydiver, or another obvious type of danger-seeker to be hooked on the rush that comes from a little stress. In fact, you could be somewhat hooked on stimulation in your everyday life and not realize it. An unconscious need for stimulation may influence the way you manage your schedule, the people you spend time with, and even the way you approach a deadline. A 2010 study suggests that neurotic individuals may create drama and crises in their lives to trigger the body’s stress response and get the rush that comes with the excitement and attenuate their negative mood. Extroverted individuals may take risks to reinforce positive experiences. Addiction to stimulation is not currently classified as a disorder in the DSM, however, impulsivity risk-taking behavior is relevant to a number of mental health conditions that may warrant additional treatment, such as ADHD, PTSD, and substance use disorder. Behavioral addictions are also newly becoming recognized as valid psychiatric disorders, with pathological gambling earning a spot in the DSM-5, as explored by a 2015 journal article. Treating Compulsive Risk-Taking Behavior While leading an exciting life in and of itself isn’t a problem, unwittingly creating crises for yourself or becoming needlessly engulfed in stressful situations can take its toll. If you tend to create more drama in your life than is necessary, the benefit of becoming aware of it is twofold: You can begin to keep things exciting but take the "crisis edge" off, paring down unnecessarily stressful activities and distinguishing the subtle difference between a true crisis and a somewhat overblown situation.You can practice relaxation techniques to reverse your body’s stress response when you find yourself overwhelmed so you don’t experience the full negative effects of chronic stress. Learn more about stress and stress management with these ongoing stress management resources, and take the quiz to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie. If your risk-taking behavior is getting out of control, causing distress, or causing you not to fulfill your responsibilities, consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can help you explore ways to manage your behavior in healthier, more adaptive ways. 8 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Makarowski R, Makarowski P, Kamiński Z. Adrenaline instead of amphetamine-replacing psychoactive substances with parachute jumps. J Gen Psychol. 2016;143(4):281-97. doi:10.1080/00221309.2016.1214101 Somerville LH, Casey BJ. Developmental neurobiology of cognitive control and motivational systems. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2010;20(2):236-41. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2010.01.006 Koob GF. Brain stress systems in the amygdala and addiction. Brain Res. 2009;1293:61-75. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2009.03.038 Dengler BA, Hawksworth SA, Berardo L, Mcdougall I, Papanastassiou AM. Bilateral amygdala stimulation reduces avoidance behavior in a predator scent posttraumatic stress disorder model. Neurosurg Focus. 2018;45(2):E16. doi:10.3171/2018.5.FOCUS18166 Fischer AG, Ullsperger M. An update on the role of serotonin and its interplay with dopamine for reward. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:484. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00484 Heirene, R., Shearer, D., Roderique-Davies, G., Mellalieu, S. Addiction in extreme sports: an exploration of withdrawal states in rock climbers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 5(2). doi:10.1556/2006.5.2016.039 Castanier C, Le scanff C, Woodman T. Who takes risks in high-risk sports? A typological personality approach. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2010;81(4):478-84. doi:10.1080/02701367.2010.10599709 Robbins TW, Clark L. Behavioral addictions. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2015;30:66-72. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2014.09.005 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.