Adrenaline junkies, thrill-seekers, nuts. These are just some of the words applied to those who partake in activities which raise the adrenaline level out of fear. Your run-of-the-mill adrenaline junkie is exploiting the body’s natural reflexes.
This morning’s arachnophobes, thanatophobes and other fearful people are crippled by the adrenaline-producing fear. Thrill-seekers are not immune to fear, even if their behavior may appear to belie the fact. The difference is phobes become petrified, literally and physically, by the rush of chemicals. Thrill-seekers get a euphoria, not from the palpable fear itself, but in the survival of the event. Huh?
Chemistry & Biology
Adrenaline. You have heard it before. What is it? Adrenaline is a hormone and neurotransmitter. Part of the body’s natural fight or flight instinct, the adrenal glands pump out adrenaline (also called epinephrine).
Adrenaline makes the heart beat faster and pump harder. It dilates bronchioles, so your body can draw in more oxygen. It constricts blood vessels, causing less blood to flow to the brain and increasing the brain’s dopamine production, for better motor response.
Every body does it.
(Attention: Still the Grammar Nazi. Every body is not the same as Everybody.) The human brain signals the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline to give the body a physical and mental edge during both critical and exhilarating events. This is survival instinct.
Not everybody does it.
Just some of the activities on the to-do (everyday) list for the adrenaline junkie are:
- Sky diving
- Bungee jumping
- Motocross/ BMX
- Rock climbing
Most of these activities, save the first two, can be done in a more relaxed atmosphere than the adrenaline junkie prefers. In their rawest forms, these activities are considered extreme sports.
Other adrenaline-producing hobbies your average junkie would find fun are the sources for the average phobias.
- Proximity to or taunting dangerous or venomous animals (big cats, bears, snakes)
- Aerial activities (para-sailing, rappelling, stunt flying)
- Speed related activities (boat or car racing, one-on-one sport racing)
- Increased difficulty sports (black diamond skiing)
So, why do people like to scare themselves?
Art imitates life.
Some days it is the other way ’round, but for the average moviegoer, art is imitating life. We are seeking those images and accounts which we would like for ourselves, but cannot due to life’s circumstances. Yes, even in the case of horror films.
Horror and action films are an adrenaline-almost-junkie’s bread and butter. For the thrill-seeker who may not have the courage to overcome all the rational thought telling the desire This can kill you., cinema becomes the vicarious vehicle.
I want to watch.
Another near-junkie is a fan, as in truly short for fanatic. This die-hard is at every game, airing, event…holds season tickets every year, gets a team logo tattoo where everyone can see it, has a team logo credit card, decorates with official merchandise, gets frequent flyer miles for attending away games/events, prefers to be seen in official team wear, plans life events on team schedules, has a vanity plate inside a team holder, buys team-branded food and names children after better players.
It is all about the high.
The fear produces the chemicals which make the body acutely aware of surrounding, physically able to respond faster and awakens the senses. It is not really difficult to understand why people can get caught up into dangerous activities, or even watching dangerous activities, as a form of entertainment.
Nearly everyone can identify a time in their life where they engaged in behavior which was dangerous, either to themselves or others. Some of the mixed emotions about this behavior is the admission it was fun, enjoyable or exciting…or all three. Even when faced with the knowledge it is far more mature not to (like, enjoy, desire) doing these things, we still have the inner voice saying, You know that is so fun.
What thrill-seeking behavior have you engaged? Was it a fear activity? Was it just the idea of being caught? Are you a fanatic? Where is your adrenaline limit?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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