If you thrive on extreme living, tough challenges, and compulsive or risk-taking behavior that gives you something of a "high," you may have more than an adventurous nature; you may actually have an addiction. And the adrenaline that flows through your blood, feeding life on the edge, may be your drug of choice.

When the hormone adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is released in your body as a way of coping with dangerous or stressful behavior, the resulting "fight or flight" response gives you the rapid, intense rush of energy necessary to deal with a threatening situation.

Your heart beats harder, your breath is more rapid, your metabolism increases, and your blood sends more oxygen to your muscles, getting them ready for action. This response occurs automatically, even if you simply perceive a threat that doesn't actually exist.

Adrenaline Addiction

Adrenaline fuels emotions and can bring added intensity to your emotional state, be it happy or sad, frightened or anxious, angry or confused.  According to the theory of adrenaline addiction, when that heightened level of intensity starts to feel normal, you become hooked and find ways to maintain it. And just as in any chemical addiction, you need more and more of the drug to maintain that feeling of normalcy.

Symptoms of adrenaline addiction include:

  • You may be somewhat delusional, living in a fantasy world to escape unpleasant realities in your day-to-day life.
  • The more adrenaline you can keep flowing, the less you have to live with any feelings of boredom, loss, depression, anxiety, abandonment, or disconnection that are buried inside.
  • Just when life starts to feel normal in a truer sense, you get that craving for adrenaline again.

Like any addict, you find a way to get your body to release adrenaline. Ultimately, your life becomes filled with drama, tension, last-minute decisions, and other stressful events that will kick off the fight-or-flight response and get the adrenaline pumping through your veins.

The Toll of Adrenaline Addiction

Eventually, however, the constant flow of adrenaline takes a toll on your body. At the same time your body is responding to emotional stress, it is causing physical stress and tension in your muscles and joints. Emotionally, adrenaline has you soaring to the heights and dropping into the depths, often with disastrous results from overstimulation.

Adrenaline "junkies" are often very successful in their careers and have what some may consider an enviable social life. With all that energy, they can multitask, reach seemingly impossible goals, and take charge of most any situation. If you are addicted to adrenaline, you are likely to choose the types of people, places, and events that will push you to extreme behavior and stimulate its production.

Overcoming Adrenaline Addiction

Although stress may feel like the result of unmanageable outside influences, remember that you help choose your circumstances, your jobs, your friends and partners, where you live, and where you go on vacation. You may not consciously bring stress in your life, but you play a role in every situation to which you react and overreact. Whether you consciously or unconsciously bring stress into your life, it may well be because of an addiction to adrenaline.

Once established, addictions are difficult to overcome and this is no less true for an adrenaline addiction than any other. Your first step might be to replace risky behavior with healthier behavior that can help use up adrenaline, such as physical exercise. If necessary, get a referral to a cognitive therapist who can help you learn calmness and patience and ultimately modify your behavior so that you invite less stress into your life.




Counselor: The Magazine for Addiction Professionals: Are You and Adrenaline Junkie? 31 Jul 2006. Web.

Paradise Valley Community College: Adrenal Addiction: Hormonal rush creates chemical dependency linked to health risks. 10 Apr 2006. Web.

University of Pennsylvania Health System: Stairway to Recovery: The neurotransmitters that mediate addiction and mental illness. Web.