When you think of the phrase “adrenaline addiction,” what comes to mind? Do you think of people bungee jumping off bridges? Does the phrase conjure up images of Brad Pitt in Fight Club?
Adrenaline addiction is an affliction which affects thousands of people. These people aren’t necessarily thrill seekers – we’ll look a little more at the symptoms of adrenaline addiction later in this article.
But one trait remains constant amongst those who are addicted to adrenaline: they continually seek that rush, through whatever method possible.
Adrenaline Definition: What is Adrenaline?
What is adrenaline? Adrenaline is a hormone which is naturally produced by your body. It’s particularly released in times of stress, but can also be released during physical exertion or when you’re scared.
The technical adrenaline addiction is as follows:
a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, especially in conditions of stress, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and preparing muscles for exertion.
Usually, when adrenaline is released, it’s the body’s way of preparing for a fight or flight situation. Encountering a menacing figure at night or seeing a child in danger can stimulate production of adrenaline.
Adrenaline addicts are those who effectively seek out ways in which to increase the production of adrenaline. Some may get an adrenaline rush by driving too fast, while others may feel the same way while rappelling.
Still others choose occupations which provide them with an adrenaline rush. Firefighters and police officers are among these, but others may get a rush through a career which, for example, requires ascending heights. Now, this is not to say that every firefighter is an adrenaline addict. But there are jobs which are especially well suited to those addicted to adrenaline.
Is There an Adrenaline Gland?
There is an adrenaline gland, but it’s called the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are located right above the kidneys. The structure of the adrenal glands is layered, and the innermost layer, called the medulla, produces adrenaline.
The hormone adrenaline is released by the adrenal gland, but the adrenal gland is responsible for a few steroids as well. These steroids can help to regulate the pain that a person feels, can suppress the immune system, and can produce a rapid response in times of fear or stress.
As a result, the adrenal glands are responsible for the feeling of “no fear.” A thrill seeker will enjoy the rush created by the adrenaline release, but also a deference of pain due to other steroids released.
What is an Adrenaline Rush?
Again, adrenaline is released in response to situations of stress or fear. It can also be released as the human body is physically exerted. For instance, a marathon runner will feel an adrenaline rush as she pushes her body to its physical limits.
An adrenaline rush is defined as:
a physical feeling of intense excitement and stimulation caused by the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands.
You can read that to mean that an adrenaline rush is a physical reaction. In fact, it is. But it’s important to note that although it’s a natural hormonal reaction, there is a psychological component as well. This psychological component can, in some cases, cause someone to seek that rush again and again.
When you’re experiencing an adrenaline rush, your body will react physically. Your heart rate will accelerate and your pupils will dilate. You may not feel pain, and will likely experience an increased level of energy.
Adrenaline and Epinephrine
To clear up any confusion, we’d like to clarify that adrenaline and epinephrine are the same thing. Adrenaline is commonly referenced when dealing with the sensations described in this article. Conversely, epinephrine is commonly referenced in medicine; an epi pen to treat allergic reactions, for instance.
What Are Adrenaline Surges?
An adrenaline surge can be defined in two ways, and it’s important to note the difference. First, an adrenaline surge can just be another way of saying adrenaline rush. This definition will carry with it all the symptoms already covered.
Secondly, however, an adrenaline surge may be a different kind of physical sensation. In this definition, a person may feel as if his heart rate is increased. The pupils may dilate. Each of the physical symptoms may be present, but instead of adrenaline, these surges are caused by anxiety. If you feel as if you may be experiencing these adrenaline surges, please speak to a healthcare provider.
Is There Such a Thing as Adrenaline Addiction?
So is there such thing as adrenaline addiction? Yes, there is. There are those who actively seek out high-sensation experiences, and they become psychologically dependent on them.
If you love the feeling you get as you’re riding a roller coaster, that doesn’t mean you have an adrenaline addiction. Those addicted to adrenaline experience a range of other symptoms, and the search for these activities may begin to interfere with other parts of their lives.
Adrenaline addiction may cause feelings of elation, and there’s certainly a physiological effect on the body. Adrenaline addicts will become dependent on these effects, and an addiction is formed.
How is Adrenaline Addictive?
It’s thought that adrenaline addiction, like alcoholism and sugar addiction, is in part hereditary. This is perhaps one of the most crucial points to understand about the disorder. In short, it doesn’t affect everyone.
For example, one person may ride a roller coaster and experience so much fear that he never wants to ride again. Another person may ride the same coaster and have so much of a rush that she jumps back in line to ride again. And a third person may ride the same attraction and experience an incredible adrenaline rush which leaves him craving more. He then seeks out even more daring experiences.
What makes adrenaline addictive isn’t entirely known to scientists. But it does seem to be hereditary, and it won’t affect everyone. After all, every human body produces adrenaline, yet not every person is addicted.
What are the Effects of Adrenaline?
When experienced through natural means, adrenaline will have very few long term effects. In fact, the immediate effects of the rush are very short lived. Within a few minutes of the release of adrenaline, the body will stop releasing the hormone.
The dangerous effects of adrenaline addiction lie in the long term search for activities which cause a rush. These can have lasting effects on the body. As with anything, moderation is key.
Is Adrenaline Addiction Dangerous?
As previously mentioned, an adrenaline rush is not inherently dangerous. It’s a far cry from drugs like heroin, meth and even marijuana. An adrenaline addiction, however, can have a severe impact on the body. To begin, pursuing and finding adrenaline rushes will impact your body’s natural production of the hormone. To put it in other terms, you’re going to mess with your natural fight or flight reactions. You may not react as quickly or as intelligently in dangerous situations.
Secondly, repeated adrenaline rushes will have effects on your heart. As we mentioned, the release of adrenaline will increase your heart rate. Long term effects can include an increased risk of heart attack.
Finally, the levels of adrenaline released by those addicted can have a lasting impact on the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the memory center of the brain, and adrenaline rushes will shrink this. As a result, your brain will be unable to produce new neurons.
Do I Need Help with Adrenaline Addiction?
There may be nothing wrong with riding a roller coaster or skydiving now and again. But if you feel that you have adrenaline addiction, you may choose to seek help. In a screening for adrenaline addiction, you may be asked the following questions:
• Are you avoiding friends and family in favor of thrill seeking events?
• Are you hiding from others your activities?
• Do you feel as if you can’t focus because you’re thinking about your next adrenaline rush?
• Are you suffering financially or in your employment/education because of your hobbies?
• When you don’t have an adrenaline rush, do you feel physically ill?
• Are you irritable or angry when you haven’t experienced an adrenaline rush?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may consider asking a professional for assistance. You and your health care provider can together determine the course of action best for you.