Adrenaline junkie is a phrase that’s used to describe people who enjoy intense and thrilling activities that generate an adrenaline rush. Other terms include sensation seekers, adventurers, or thrill seekers.
They’re the type of people who enjoy things like skydiving, extreme sports, or potentially dangerous lines of work, such as firefighting or emergency rescue.
When you’re excited, afraid, or emotionally charged, your body produces the hormone adrenaline. When released into your blood, this hormone increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, which can sharpen your senses and give you a boost of energy.
Some people seek this sensation in the same way that others might chase a high from a particular drug, hence the term adrenaline junkie.
There’s no single test to determine whether you’re a thrill seeker. But certain personality traits can give you a desire to experience certain sensations and excitement.
If you’re drawn to activities that provoke thrilling sensations and a rush of adrenaline, you likely have some type T, which stands for thrill, personality traits.
These traits might include:
- flexibility and openness to change
- a desire for complexity
- a desire for novelty
- a drive to pursue challenges
- spontaneity and impulsivity
If you look for that adrenaline rush, you’re likely drawn to activities that provoke thrilling sensations, such as:
- very tall roller coasters
- haunted houses that require waivers on entry
- adventurous hobbies, such as BASE jumping, storm chasing, or shark diving
- extreme sports, such as motorcycle racing or whitewater rafting
Keep in mind that thrills don’t always involve potentially life-threatening situations.
For example, some people get their fix through procrastination. Knowing you have just one night left before the deadline of a large project can trigger a rush of adrenaline. You may feel excited and energized knowing you’ll have to work frantically to complete it.
Others might enjoy starting conversations about hot-button issues, such as religion or politics, or maintaining a jam-packed work or social calendar.
The way we talk about thrill seeking includes language that’s usually reserved for talking about addiction. But thrill-seeking behavior isn’t currently classified as an addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
According to the DSM-5, peer-reviewed research supporting behavioral addictions is still lacking. But some experts have done some research on the topic of adrenaline addiction.
For example, a 2016 study looked at withdrawal symptoms in eight rock climbers. After going through a period of not climbing, participants experienced withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by people with addictions to substances.
These symptoms included:
- cravings to go climbing
- decreased interest in activities other than rock climbing
- negative emotions, including agitation, frustration, and restlessness.
Thrill seeking generally isn’t anything to worry to about. However, if you’re regularly putting your safety — or the safety of others — on the line, it might be time to reevaluate things.
Some signs that might indicate a potential problem include:
- driving well above the speed limit, with or without other people in the car
- mixing multiple drugs or drugs and alcohol for an increased effect
- intentionally picking fights with people
- behaving aggressively toward others
- engaging in illegal activity, such as stealing or property damage
- lying or manipulating others, both for the adrenaline it produces or to cover up possibly dangerous behaviors
If you’re concerned that chasing your next adrenaline rush is interfering with your daily life or personal relationships, consider working with a therapist. They can help you identify any underlying motivations and help you develop new behaviors and thought patterns.
Not sure where to start? Our guide to finding therapy for every budget can help.
Remember, being a thrill seeker isn’t necessarily something to be concerned about. There are plenty of ways to get your heart pounding without putting your life on the line.
- cage diving with sharks
- indoor rock climbing or bouldering
- bungee jumping
- motorcycle or car racing on designated tracks
- indoor skydiving
- escape rooms
- riding extreme roller coasters
With the proper experience and protective gear, activities like traditional skydiving or outdoor rock climbing can be safe. The key is making sure you’re properly equipped to recognize and handle any potential problems that might come up.
With a little forethought and some safety precautions, an adrenaline rush can be an enjoyable and healthy experience. But it’s important to balance thrill-seeking moments with relaxation.
Constantly putting yourself in high-stress situations can take a toll on your physical and mental health, increasing your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
After your next adventure, follow up by trying these tips for relaxation:
- Deep breathing. It can help you feel more relaxed and relieve tight muscles.
- Gentle movement. Try yoga or tai chi, two practices that help promote relaxation through a combination of concentration, movement, and deep breathing.
- Light exercise. Go for a brisk walk around the block or a slow stroll through nature.
- Time with loved ones. Simply being in the presence of a loved one may help relieve feelings of stress and promote relaxation.
Being a thrill seeker isn’t anything to worry about as long as you aren’t putting yourself or others in risky situations. But some experts believe that chasing adrenaline may take on some qualities similar to those of a drug addiction.
Aim to balance heart-pounding experiences with plenty of rest and relaxation. If fixating on your next adrenaline rush starts to feel all-consuming, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.