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.