What Makes a Risk-Taker Crave Adrenaline?

Young woman climbing in adventure rope parkWhile most social networking profiles are populated with photos of friends and family coupled with a few political or religious rants, it’s easy to spot the page of someone who enjoys risky behavior. These are the social networking profiles covered in photos of skydiving missions, rugged camping trips, and endless exotic travel. While these images can be appealing, they can occasionally be an indication that someone compulsively takes dangerous risks. In some circumstances, they may even have an addiction to risk-taking. While most people are loathe to take on excessive risk every day, people who love the feeling of adrenaline are always looking for a life of adventure.

Adrenaline and Stress

Although adrenaline addiction isn’t a recognized diagnosis—and is unlikely to become one—the “adrenaline junkie” really does exist. Adrenaline, sometimes called norepinephrine, is a hormone and neurotransmitter the body releases in large quantities during times of stress. It’s adrenaline that enables the fight or flight response, and when the body starts releasing large quantities of adrenaline, some people experience a powerful “adrenaline high.” Although everyone produces adrenaline in response to stress, some people crave the process, while other people find an adrenaline dump stressful and uncomfortable.

The Adrenaline Junkie Personality

People who constantly seek adventure have a strong need for stimulation. This can be just a personality quirk. People with domineering type-A personalities are more likely to crave risk-taking. In some cases, though, a craving for adventure can be the product of a mental health condition. A person with attention deficit or ADHD, for example, might need more stimulation than most people, and may resort to adventure-seeking as a form of self-medication. People with domineering type-A personality are more likely to have problematic risk-taking behavior.

The Post-Rush Crash

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a risk-taker, especially if you are reasonably cautious. For physical activities, this includes wearing a helmet, listening to an instructor, and taking other basic safety precautions.  For some risk-takers, though, adventure can become an addiction. After the thrill is gone, risk-seeking individuals can experience a post-rush crash that yields feelings of depression or inadequacy. This can necessitate taking bigger and more frequent risks—much like a person’s tolerance to other activities or substances increases with addiction.

Signs You Might Have Problematic Risk-Taking Behavior

Daring physical risks, such as skydiving or BASE jumping, may be indicators of a distressing love of adrenaline,  but these aren’t the only ways people get adrenaline rushes. Creating conflict in your personal life can also spur an adrenaline rush. Some other signs that risk-taking may be problematic include:

  • Finding once-exciting adventures such as whitewater rafting boring, and needing more and more danger to get the same feeling
  • Creating conflict with friends and loved ones because you’re bored
  • Being terrified of boredom
  • Craving constant stimulation
  • Being unable to tolerate quiet reflection

Adrenaline junkies often lead interesting lives, and they can be fun to watch. In most cases, adrenaline junkies are just people out for a good time. Just like any other behavior, though, when the search for adrenaline gets out of control, it can lead to dangerous consequences. If you’re concerned about an adrenaline addiction, Adrenaline Addicts Anonymous offers group support.

Many therapists work with people who have problematic risk-taking behavior. You can look for therapists in your area by searching on the GoodTherapy.org therapist directory.


  1. Lencioni, P. (2005, Winter). The painful reality of adrenaline addiction [PDF]. Leadership Review.
  2. Weil, A., M.D. (n.d.). What makes an adrenaline junkie? Retrieved from http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401366/What-Makes-an-Adrenaline-Junkie.html

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Bennie

    May 24th, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    I dated a guy once who was like this.
    Everything had to be 90 miles per hour and to the max at every single moment.
    In the end it was too much for me. I was craving stability and safety and he was advers to anything that resembled safe!
    For him to get anything out of life it had to be this rush of adrenaline all the time that frankly in the end I found to be too much for me. I couldn’t live my life on the edge like he was choosing and knew that this would keep us from ever achieving anything sane, even though I think that otherwise we both felt like we were a pretty good match.
    His desire for that kind of life style and my desire for calm is what ltimately made us see that we were never going to be right for each other.

  • Jonty

    November 28th, 2017 at 3:58 AM

    That is so sad, brought a tear to my eye. Think it was all for the best that you went your separate ways

  • Leila

    May 24th, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    You have to sort of think that people like this are missing something else in life. They might know what that is, but there is some sense of fulfillment that they get from this that nothing else can seem to bring them.

  • Ellie

    May 26th, 2014 at 4:49 AM

    I don’t know, I kinda think that being with someone like this would force me a little outside of my own comfort zone and get me to try some things that otherwise I never would have been up for.

    I am not saying that this would be what I would necessarily choose but a relationship can be all about learning from the other person and being willing to try some new things for him or her.

    So why not something like this? It doesn’t have to be anything that you are afraid that will endanger your life but it could just be stepping outside of your norm and trying a little something new. It could actually be the little push that you have been looking for.

  • todd

    May 27th, 2014 at 4:00 AM

    I like it for the natural high that I get when I do certain things. It isn’t about showing off or getting attention but for me it is more about how it makes me feel when I accomplish something that others would think of as too daring or risky.

  • Rowan

    May 28th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    These adventure seeking sorts are fun to be around SOMETIMES but I am not sure that I could handle being with a person like this all the time. I think that my life would seem so boring by comparison… oh you went shopping and bought a new jacket? well I ran an ultramarathon. I don’t think that most people like this are going to want to intentionally make you feel bad and maybe it could be my own lack of self confidence (there’s a thought) but I kind of like hanging out with those who share my own likes and comfort level and we can watch the risk takers from afar and look at them in awe when they do something really cool that we would actually never try.

  • lily

    May 29th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    has to be in their blood because I don’t have this need for speed at all

  • Gabe

    May 30th, 2014 at 3:53 AM

    I know what this is like and on the flip side I also know how crushed you feel when one thing is over and you are immediately seeking out the next thing that can give you that great feeling all over again.

    I have done some really stupid things in my life seeking out that high and I told myself that at least I wasn’t using drugs, that this couldn’t hurt me, but reasing this I recognize that there were some of my actions that I have done that could have gotten me seriously injured all for the high of the moment and I don’t want to live with that anymore.

    I have to find some things that I enjoy that don’t cause quite as much risk but still give me the reward, just haven’t found that yet.

  • Dave y.

    October 7th, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    I crave adrenaline because it makes me feel alive. Most people spend a life time in their comfortzone and never actually see what there capable of. I spent the first 14 years of my life in a wheelchair and was told I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life, but now I travel the worlds doing the most extreme bungee jumps.

    The closer to death you become the more alive you feel.

  • Robert S.

    March 1st, 2015 at 9:08 PM

    Don’t forget to add “politicians”, “political junkies” and “political office holders” into the mix of adrenaline junkies. I know well, as I am one.

    I have been in “politics” for all the right reason for 40 years: wanting to save the nation; improve the community, etc. But there is also the thrill of the campaign and the election. I coined a term for the depression we political junkies feel after the election is over (even if our side wins big): P.E.D.–Post Election Depression, and it is as real as depression caused by a major negative life event. You work on a campaign, no you live a campaign for a year.
    Then it is all over. Win or lose it is over. It is better winning but still the 18 hour days, 7 days a week, and you are in the center of the hurricane.

    I personally have suffered a “fall from grace” (due to an illness)that forced my retirement from public/political service. It is about to kill me. The peace and quiet, no conflict, no battles to fight. I am really having a hard time adjusting after being in the game 40 years.

    It would be real interesting to observe…if it were not happening to me. Unlike politicians who lose a election (Nixon in 1960 and 1962) there is no coming back for me. Just a peaceful retirement. Scream!

  • Red

    September 20th, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    Of course adrenaline addiction will never be a real diagnosis–if your body is overproducing adrenaline, or, conversely, if you feel like you don’t have enough, odds are you have a severe endocrine problem. That’s not psychological and can’t be solved by going to a support group. You need to have bloodwork and maybe diagnostic imaging of your adrenal glands and/or pituitary done, and you may require medication. The physical effects of too much (Cushing’s) or too little (Addison’s) adrenaline should not be underestimated and can sometimes cause severe damage.

    Also, I have seen people get accused of “creating conflict with family due to boredom” by lazy therapists when, in fact, the family members in question were objectively horrible to be around, sometimes abusive, and only a doormat type would have been able to avoid conflict.

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