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What is an Adrenaline Junkie?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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During times of extreme stress, fear, or anxiety, the human brain will often signal the release of a powerful stimulating chemical known as epinephrine or adrenaline. This sudden flood of adrenaline is designed to give the body a boost of strength and awareness during a "fight or flight" situation. Once the immediate danger has passed, the average person's body will slowly ramp back down to normal levels and the additional hormone will be absorbed and eliminated. This rush can bring with it some of the same satisfying effects as other drugs, however, so some people can actually become addicted to the natural "high" they experienced during the event. A person who craves the release of adrenaline and is willing to go to extreme measures to get it is commonly referred to as an adrenaline junkie.

A typical adrenaline junkie is often associated with the world of extreme sports. Participants in activities like auto racing, skydiving, and bungee jumping face the real possibility of serious injury or death, but these sports also provoke the desired fight-or-flight stress response that some people crave. Whenever an extreme skydiver or BASE jumper jumps out of an airplane or runs off the edge of a cliff, he or she triggers a rush of natural hormones and chemicals that give him or her a sensation of being fully alive. He or she may feel depressed or unmotivated in his or her daily life until the opportunity to do something death-defying arrives. Essentially, a true adrenaline junkie lives his or her life at either level 10 or level 0.

Extreme sports are not the only arena in which such people thrive, however. A person with a thrill-seeking personality often seeks out employment that involves a high level of risk or drama. He or she may take on a job that require extraordinary courage or risk-taking, such as a firefighter, police officer, or professional soldier. The stress and thrill of rescuing a trapped passenger from a burning car or chasing down a suspected criminal could provide the same kind of rush as an extreme sport. Taking on a dangerous assignment or volunteering for hazardous duties allows him or her to experience life to its fullest.

One concern many people have for a true adrenaline junkie's overall well-being is his or her constant need for danger and drama. Friends and family often find it difficult to maintain a normal relationship with this type of person, and he or she may have conflicts with others simply for the rush associated with the fight. Others who fail to keep up with the person's edgy and anarchic lifestyle may find themselves marginalized or abandoned. An adrenaline junkie's lows are often as deep as his or her highs, which can make it extremely difficult to maintain a normal, functional lifestyle. If the person is not killed or seriously injured in active pursuit of his or her next "high," then he or she may eventually burn out from the effects of a reckless lifestyle.

Sports&Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to Sports&Hobbies, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon994156 — On Jan 19, 2016

My husband has been an adrenaline junkie. He was a fireman, urban search and rescue and line rescue. He competed in outrigger/waka ama racing. He is now in hospital with burnout/depression/anxiety. Take care kids, and balance your lives. Adrenaline is addictive, just like a drug.

By anon931220 — On Feb 07, 2014

I am a mother of two. I have always been a daredevil for as long as I can remember. I always did boy stuff and was never afraid of anything. The adrenaline rush got worse after having kids. It's so bad that I feel depressed whenever I am idle. I just want to do stuff. Worse still, I cannot afford the experiences I hope and wish for as I have other commitments.

I currently do muay thai but that does not seem like enough. I have bought a bike recently and hope to make the best of it. Help please! It's driving me insane.

By anon327756 — On Mar 30, 2013

I am a paramedic. I have a wife and young child. I recently seriously injured myself for the first time paragliding. I was into skydiving, scuba diving, skiing, kayaking, climbing and canyoning before I got married. Before that, I was into fitness, travel and binge drinking. I grew up in a religiously conservative background, highly depressed. Am I an adrenaline junkie? What do I do now?

By anon323495 — On Mar 05, 2013

I want to try skydiving, base jumping, swimming with sharks, climbing a treacherous mountain, etc., but the problem is that I cannot afford such adrenaline rush activities. Worse yet, I am starting to creep toward the age when many of these activities will be out of reach for me. What's a girl to do to satisfy these urges? I am going crazy with my mundane life and just want to go out and live life dangerously.

By anon321035 — On Feb 20, 2013

It's hard to have a job you love as an "adrenaline junkie," (especially in this economy), while being able to live on your own and pay the bills.

I want high income as well as excitement. Medical sales seems to be the only thing I can think of. Eod Tech, or Military/Airline pilot maybe. Anyone? or my current position, running a multimillion dollar business by the seat of my pants as a sales manager for a fortune 500, and then doing all the other fun crap on my days off.

I just want it all! I just want to feel good every day. Is that so much to ask?

By anon315076 — On Jan 21, 2013

In my opinion, the question that needs to be answered is: what can be done to fulfill the adrenaline craving without having to do high risk activities, damage relationships, or always leave things for the last minute (procrastinate)? Please does anybody have a good suggestion? I need it so much.

By anon294243 — On Sep 30, 2012

I can't think straight when I'm not on a adrenaline rush. I love playing paintball, no gear but guns with pods and guns cranked up (speed of shots). Yeah it leaves some nasty bruises and welts, but it makes you feel alive and my grades always take a jump up afterwards (My teachers and mom think I'm wasting potential. Apparently, I do really well on exams you can't study for, but I get B minuses on average, with some C-pluses) because I can think easier.

I also love pranking people, such as leaving them fake parking tickets and putting bumper stickers on people's cars. I had to run from a police officer once when I was laser pointing people walking down the street and that's given me my biggest rush yet. Am I the only one who gets bored out of their mind and can't think straight unless they are doing fun things?

By anon284061 — On Aug 07, 2012

This describes me to a T! If I'm not riding my gsx-r 1000 dangerously, flying off ski jumps, skydiving, or taking helicopter lessons, I am depressed and miserable. It's kind of messed up, but I believe (we) I am this way for a reason.

Look up Hunter vs Farmer. In nature our "type" is more geared towards high-risk things like hunting and being a warrior (in today's world - high pressure sales, soldier, police officer, etc.) vs working a farm (sitting in a cubicle, office, etc..).

There is nothing wrong with needing adrenaline to be happy. It's science. We just need to find a job/career that allows this and that still provides a decent standard of living. (Or work a boring office job that pays well and do the dangerous/exciting stuff after work.)

Currently, I am applying to fly attack helicopters for the Army, as well as applying to the State Police academy. Time to embrace who we are.

By anon276511 — On Jun 24, 2012

I'm 19 and I have the hardest time the next day after I get my rush. I used to race motocross and forced myself to stop because I was getting too crazy and fearless of what I was doing. I have not a care in the world besides my bike and I felt connected and now I hate that I'm finished doing it. I regret it and now I snowboard and when I hike up the mountain doing the gnarliest natural train, I love my life more than anything else in the world. I can't get enough and I want to go bigger and farther in my journey of snowboarding but I hate my life more then anything when I'm not doing anything that impacts my rush. I don't know how to handle it. I flip out and want to break things and fight or do something to take out the anger – mostly yell as loud as I can.

I'm also a boxer but fighting helps only when I'm training or in the ring. What do I do to calm down? It's building up too much stress in my life. It's driving me insane. I've been like this my whole life.

By anon265212 — On May 01, 2012

I think I have a problem because I know what every one of you are talking about. I feel it too.

@anon164466: I also have the exact problem you do. I ride a sportbike and I love the feeling you get when you split cars on the highway. I don't know, that wooshing sound, the roar of my bike, me imagining the faces of the people in the cars when they realize what just happened, or just getting ahead of the person in front. I'm a leader, not a follower.

I recently had my license suspended for speeding tickets. I was okay for about a week but being stuck at home all the time killed me, so I went out for a ride. I couldn't follow the speed limit outside of town and decided to nail the throttle. Turns out I get pulled over for speeding, and I spent the night in jail.

The wife's not happy. I have been doing research on what might cause this feeling. I've always known I liked that adrenaline rush but I didn't think it would get me in this much trouble.

I also have that type A personality. I wait until the last minute to get things done because I work better and concentrate better.

Is there anything you all can think of to help me overcome this feeling?

By anon212274 — On Sep 06, 2011

I'm not as bad as 466 or 436 -- yet. I get high off my adrenaline inhaler. Driving to work with no brakes. Getting into fights. Taking risks at my job - the fear of losing it.

I have ADHD, and when I hit that adrenaline surge - everything feels OK. I feel alive for once, not disconnected. I can access thoughts and information rapidly, like the other poster.

I have done some stupid craptrying to get this high. From trying cocaine, percocet, marijuana, amphetamine, etc. Luckily, I have the ability to not get mentally addicted to those drugs. It's just epinephrine. Not a minute goes by where I don't think about taking a hit from the inhaler. It's not as good as the real thing, but it helps me cope.

I'm joining the guard as a infantryman. I hope this will help put an end to the addiction, as I will get stimulation from war. Who knows? Life is too boring to sit in a cubicle.

I am working towards a career in the telecommunications industry as a tower climber... you know the guys who climb 300-1500 feet to work on communications equipment? to keep your cell phones running? Yep. That's going to be my job.

By anon200436 — On Jul 27, 2011

The guy in the first post does display a small degree of adrenaline addiction.

Mine started out in a similar way, always leaving things until the last minute in school as a way to get some excitement.

Upon leaving school I took work in some very rough bars as a way to experience some more excitement. A nice change of pace for a middle-class private school boy. And I found that when things got out of control, I was able to keep my head together and do what needed to be done. University followed the same path of procrastination.

I was contantly traveling too, where I would put myself in some stupid situations just to get a rush.

I've now found the best way to feel the rush I'm always chasing and have lately been freelancing as a war photographer. I guess I was always going to end up doing something like this. It's just that I act well in stressful situations - it's when I'm at my best - so I want to continue experiencing them.

But what the article says about the stress this puts on relationships with friends and family is horribly true.

By anon164466 — On Mar 31, 2011

I ride a sport bike. Though I have, for the most part, thought myself a coward in most respects in my life, there is one place where I am totally at peace: at 120 mph, dragging my knee, splitting lanes in oncoming traffic, or passing cars at over 150 mph on a straightaway. it's not a matter of skill, or of "guts." There is no fear of injury or death I breathe "clearer" and that's why I do it. If I can hold my bike over 150mph for say, a ten- mile stretch of road, then when I slow down as I approach town, I feel the air I breathe, cool and thick, i can access every thought in the back of my mind, every decision becomes instantly clear to me.

When I am facing death, at over 100 mph, just inches from an oncoming car, that is the only time in my life when I actually know what to do, so i do it. There is no doubt in my mind. I do it for the clarity and peace of mind.

By anon164054 — On Mar 30, 2011

No, you are an angry procrastinator.

By anon78991 — On Apr 20, 2010

i always do things at the last moment. And have a sense of urgency with everything. I also become furious too quickly. Am I also a kind of adrenaline junkie.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to Sports&Hobbies, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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