Overcoming adrenaline addiction can be among the most challenging psychological experiences a person has to deal with in their entire lifetime. When people initially feel the adrenaline enter their body, it feels highly uncomfortable. Most people panic when it floods their body and mind, which leads to further production of adrenaline (also known as “epinephrine”). This high production of adrenaline eventually causes the person to become conditioned to needing production for everyday functioning.
Although initially the adrenaline floods the body and makes us feel uncomfortable, after many months of build up, it actually can have an antidepressant effect. It triggers fear and causes anxiety – but this causes release of dopamine, which can actually ward off depression. After time, people can love the edge that this “fight or flight” response gives them in terms of energy, mood boost, and quick wit. I can personally testify for this because it’s something I’ve had to deal with.
The release of adrenaline can boost mood, social skills (because the brain is thinking so quickly), and overall energy. You may wake up feeling like you need to do something or need to get moving or a lot of things accomplished. Many individuals with adrenaline addiction become extremely competitive and accomplished in terms of setting and achieving goals. Additionally, there are many CEO’s and leaders of large companies that are addicted to this highly stimulated state of awareness.
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with adrenaline addiction unless you feel as though it is taking a toll on your physical health. If that time comes, or you reach a point in your life where you just want to get back to your “authentic self” with no unnatural excess of adrenaline, you can do it. I honestly thought I would never be the same after my trauma, but after a few years of hard work, I overcame the adrenaline addiction and reset my body’s natural state of homeostasis.
If you are functioning well with high adrenaline, just keep in mind that it may lead to poorer physical health and problems such as: high blood pressure, heart attacks, physical pain, or excessive anxiety and hypochondria. Some people have a minor addiction to adrenaline and/or have it under control, but others cannot seem to cope well with the excess flood of epinephrine and cortisol throughout their nervous system.
How an adrenaline addiction starts…
1. Traumatic event or high stress – War, life changing diagnosis (e.g. cancer), rape, hard drug withdrawal, anxiety disorders, etc. There are plenty of things that could trigger the start of an adrenaline addiction – even a bunch of less severe, minor stressors.
2. Body sensitized to adrenaline – After a good 6 to 8 months of excessive adrenaline build up, it changes your physiology. You become sensitized to the epinephrine and used to what it does for you. Initially it may be difficult to cope with, but after awhile, you become so accustomed to it that you can function.
3. Brain in overdrive – It sends your brain into full throttle and your wit becomes majorly amplified. This is because your slower brainwaves in the alpha and theta ranges become severely diminished. Alpha rhythms are drowned out by high amounts of mid and high-range beta brainwaves. This leads to further production of dopamine, epinephrine, and cortisol.
4. Adrenaline floods the body – Your body will feel less relaxed and you may have the urge to move around. You will literally feel the adrenaline coursing throughout your entire body. Senses all become heightened – hearing, vision, taste, smells, and touch. I remember smells became very powerful for me and my hearing became so sensitive that normal volume levels had me panicking thinking I was going to lose hearing – which caused further panic – and exacerbated the cycle.
5. Brain and body conditioned to adrenaline – The sensitization of adrenaline is actually a heightened state of awareness. Your focus on soft sounds makes them seem like they may cause hearing loss; you panic. Bright lights may seem as though they are going to cause blindness. You become highly emotionally sensitive to minor issues and feel as though many things are a personal attack. After awhile though, you may become positive, outgoing, happy, and pleasure seeking. This is because your brains natural supply of chemicals becomes used up by the excess adrenaline and you are left to seek out external stimuli to keep the production going.
How to overcome adrenaline addiction:
There are a number of solid options for overcoming the excess production of adrenaline. Some are common sense, while others may be a little more counterintuitive. The goal is to use up all of the excess energy and to cause your body to relax. If you can’t relax and fall asleep normally at night, you are still highly aroused. The goal is to reduce your level of arousal from being stuck in full throttle hyper aroused mode to a more relaxed, normal state of functioning. This takes a lot of time though, it took me over 4 years to get back on track.
1. Exercise – While your body is pumping with adrenaline, the best thing you can do for yourself is to put the excess energy to use via exercise. Here’s where it gets tricky – if you go overboard, you may damage your body and/or cause further production of adrenaline. Ideally, you should shoot for 40 to 60 minutes in the weight room. Work out hard, but when the time is up, leave. Do not ever do all cardio either, add in strength training because it will force your muscles to work hard and burn up energy stores. I personally think strength training is better than cardio for overcoming this addiction.
2. Yoga – One practice you may consider taking up is that of yoga. When done properly, it burns energy in the body, and relaxes the mind. When done consistently once or a couple times a week, it will help your body and mind start to relax. The relaxation may initially feel uncomfortable, but just keep pushing through it.
3. Self hypnosis – When I reached the peak of my addiction, the thing that helped me fall asleep at night was self hypnosis and/or guided imagery recordings. I simply downloaded some self hypnosis sessions, put them on my iPod to listen to, and was usually able to fall asleep. If I wasn’t able to fall asleep, I at least felt very relaxed.
4. Deep breathing – Practicing deep breathing can be beneficial for consciously training your body to relax. Although I found deep breathing to be helpful on occasion, most people don’t know how to do it properly to help themselves relax. Should you choose to incorporate this in your attempt to overcome this addiction, make sure you know what you’re doing.
5. Meditation – Perhaps one of the most effective ways to improve your mental state and increase happiness, self control, and reduce adrenaline is by learning how to properly meditate. There are many different types of meditation, so choose one that is aimed to help people relax. Most meditation types will help you relax and get you on the right track if you are consistent with your practice. Even 15 minutes a day before bed may help a lot more than you expect.
6. Stop stimulants – All stimulants will exacerbate this addiction and cause further problems. If you are serious about getting back to homeostasis and overcoming this addiction, you need to stop with chemicals and foods that are stimulating. In other words, if you are drinking coffee, taking 5 hour energy extreme, No Doz, cocaine, Red Bull, Adderall, etc. Things that stimulate this adrenaline production should be stopped. Cut them from your diet completely if you are serious about getting back to normal.
7. Sleep – Aim to get plenty of sleep, go to bed at a reasonable time and wake up when you feel well rested. Don’t make yourself get very little amounts of sleep. If you are consistently getting less than 6 hours of sleep, your cortisol levels will be greatly amplified.
8. Less electronics – Whether it’s video games, television, cell phones, or computer – when you have an addiction to adrenaline, electronics can make you even more amped up. If you cannot cut electronics completely for awhile, at least minimize your time spent using them. Also a tip: NEVER use electronics (including cell phone) at least an hour before bed. Something as simple as getting one text could get you so worked up that you won’t be able to sleep.
9. Diet – There are certain foods that lead to further production of adrenaline too. Try to eat a healthy balanced diet and limit excess carbohydrates. Too many carbs can cause a major insulin spike which will release more cortisol and adrenaline.
10. Neurofeedback – Although this method isn’t effective for everyone, it is basically a way to help train your brain to consciously relax. Typically a professional will hook up an EEG, get a brain wave reading, and help you determine what frequencies to up-train or down-train.
11. Brainwave Entrainment – This is a relatively newer, less researched science, but some people swear by this technology for helping them get back on track. I have used it; it has worked relatively well to help with relaxation. There are studies out that prove that this technology can help promote relaxation.
Signs that you are overcoming adrenaline addiction
1. Automatically drift off to sleep – Perhaps the easiest way to know that you’ve overcome this addiction is by your sleep pattern at night. When you are truly done with this addiction, you will lie down and not really be able to control when you fall asleep. Your brain will automatically switch gears and the subconscious will take over as you drift to sleep. In other words, your brainwaves will shift on their own and you will NOT be able to stay awake at will.
2. More relaxed – You will feel less anxious and more relaxed in all situations. This relaxation may initially feel uncomfortable because you have been so sensitized to the adrenaline.
3. Carefree – Less things will bother you and you may not be afraid of anything.
4. Natural feeling – You will feel more natural in your thinking and physical abilities. You will feel less hyped up and more like a normal human being should feel.
5. Emotions – The increased production of adrenaline will have numbed you to the point where you forgot what it was like to experience natural human emotions. These emotions will slowly start to come back as your body slowly returns to homeostasis.
6. Desensitization – You will become desensitized to things like sounds, smells, sights, etc. You will no longer panic at hearing normal volume music – it will sound normal. You will be able to handle loud music without thinking you’re going to lose your hearing. You will be much less fearful and won’t panic at things that before would’ve induced the fight or flight response.
7. Relaxed body – Before your brain slows down, a month or two in advance your body will feel relaxed. Your brain will still be stimulated, but you will feel very comfortable. I enjoyed this state of awareness a lot because the body feels great.
8. Relaxed mind – Lastly, your mind will start to slow back into normal mode. If you have had an adrenaline addiction for years, it may be very tough to transition. You may feel weird and not really like how slow your thinking becomes. Just go with the flow and try not to panic – things will get better.
What caused the adrenaline addiction in the first place?
Only you know what lead to the addiction in the first place. Was it drugs? Was it some uncontrollable event? Was it a bunch of consecutive stressors? Sometimes self-analysis is helpful for closure. When you have finally overcome this addiction, raw emotion will come back that you may not be prepared to deal with. You will start feeling more natural, and initially you may feel a little depressed.
The adrenaline was like a drug for you, getting you through the day and making your life more exciting. When you take this away, you may notice that your motivation subsides, your energy lessens, your thought process is less organized, and you feel mentally slower. This is all normal – the whole key is to just let it pass and know that you are on the right track to becoming a healthier human being.
The adrenaline is there to help protect you in dangerous situations. I know if I dealt with this powerful addiction, there are others out there that have gone through the same craziness. Coming down from my adrenaline spike, hypomania, high or whatever you want to call it was very rocky and hellish. Unless you are prepared to take on the challenge and the pain you may experience from the “comedown” I would be careful. For some people the extra boost that they get from this addiction may actually be helpful.