ADDICTIVE HOBBIES Are adrenaline Junkies truly junkies?

When does a hobby become an addiction?

In the past, addiction was exclusively associated with tangible substances that someone could get “hooked on.” Nowadays, addiction has been expanded to include behaviors, some of which will feel like no brainers: gambling, internet gaming, or sexual behavior. Brain imaging studies have shown that areas of your brain that respond to drugs are the same as areas that respond to behavioral addictions (van Holst, de Ruiter, van den Brink, Veltman, & Goudriaan, 2012). But how about extreme sports? Are adrenaline “junkies” truly junkies? What are addictions?

People living with addiction experience sensation seeking. But hasn’t everyone experienced sensation-seeking? The difference lies in how dependent, and a person abuses sensation-seeking. What would be abuse? Say choosing to gamble, for example, instead of going to work, or having dinner with your friends. At first, that experience is just something that’s fun. Cravings, high rates of relapse, increased tolerance, and withdrawal come as a person develops addiction

This pattern of addiction has been found to be true in extreme sports including skydiving, downhill skiing, and rock climbing. Heirene and colleagues set out to investigate if rock climbing is a behavioral addiction. They conducted detailed interviews with average and experienced climbers, looking to determine if the participants could experience withdrawal when taking a break from climbing. They asked how much the participants were craving climbing, and measured their levels of anhedonia – the reduced interest or pleasure in other activities which used to make them happy prior to stopping climbing specifically.

Why is anhedonia important to measure? It shows the influence of climbing on the enjoyment of other activities and whether life is still enjoyable without climbing. People struggling with drug addiction frequently report that life off drugs feels meaningless and nothing feels as good as when they’re high. If the climbers experience anhedonia, this would be strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that rock climbing, and thus other extreme sports by association, can be addictive.

Although both high and average ability participants reported cravings for climbing, the average ability climbers expressed that although they missed it, it was bearable. However, high ability participants had difficulty coping with their worsened mood resulting from the cessation of rock climbing, a characteristic of withdrawal. This discrepancy in how the different participants felt like they needed climbing in their lives, sounds like addiction. Are extreme sports an addiction?



How the participants feel towards climbing seems to mirror how people experiencing drug or behavioral addiction feel. But his may mean it can stimulate the same areas of the brain, as drugs or gambling, and it may be an option for people who want to quit. Quitting an addiction can be very difficult without support, community, and something to fill your time. Rock climbing is a community based exercise which relies on collaboration and encouragement. Climbing may be a viable treatment for those struggling with addiction.


  • Heirene, R. M., Shearer, D., Roderique-Davies, G., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2016). Addiction in Extreme Sports: An Exploration of Withdrawal States in Rock Climbers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(2), 332–341.
  • Bento, M. (2019, March 1). [Climber]. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://outdoorgearlab-mvnab3pwrvp3t0.stackpathdns.com/photos/15/81/279616_31645_L2.jpg
  • https://rebelvoiceblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/1525.jpg?w=720
  • https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*eZRgJpaZ4SJ53ud6FvXVDA.jpeg
  • https://objects.kaxmedia.com/auto/o/2006/22ff69cc7a.png
  • https://i1.wp.com/skysthelimit.net/wp-content/uploads/14-Things-You-Should-Know-Before-You-Go-Skydiving.jpg?fit=625%2C420&ssl=1
  • https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/Travel/ski/skier-big-mountain.jpg?imwidth=450
  • https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5be63c9ed274cb9805e09974/t/5be8c41a1ae6cfbdd7a95026/1541994164535/spot-summer-jam-derz-4.jpg
  • https://www.accessfund.org/uploads/Red-Rocks_horizontal.jpg

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.