Recklessness is a word that could be used to describe addiction. Under the influence of powerful drugs and/or alcohol, drug addicts and alcoholics make reckless decisions. Even if one isn’t addicted to substances, when they are under the influence they live on the edge. For example, people choose to drive drunk. Some substances cause euphoria in such a way that it makes people feel invincible. Under the influence of such drugs, people attempt all kinds of reckless acts. Even without the influence, addicts and alcoholics, or substance users alike, have a common characteristic of living dangerously. Listen to the stories of recovering addicts and alcoholics and be amazed by the death defying circumstances many have survived.
There are some who can’t seem to get away from such a lifestyle. As if the danger were part of the addiction itself, despite their previous brushes with death, they cannot get away. Using in and of itself is a game of russian roulette. Relapses weaken the body. Vulnerable to the potency of drugs after some time spent clean and sober, overdose is always a possibility. Yet, time after time, just like their drug, addicts return to the high of danger. They are attracted to the fear.
Why We Get Attracted to Fear
It turns out that the attraction to the “fear” associated with substance abuse is not so different from the attraction of substance abuse itself. More specifically, what makes substance abuse addicting also makes fear addicting. When we experience fear our bodies release different chemicals and hormones to compensate. Adrenaline is quite literally the body’s fight or flight response, the natural way of handling fear. Lesser well known for being produced in response to fear is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain which is supposed to communicate pleasure. In the brain cycle of addiction, dopamine plays a very large role. The brain becomes addicted to, obsessed with, and dependent on excessive dopamine production.
For fear, much like with drugs and alcohol, some people don’t have a tolerance threshold. That is why some people can withstand haunted houses, scary movies, and thrill seeking while others jump at bumps in the night. Since dopamine is released, some actually enjoy the fear. In fact, the scarier the better.
Can fear be an addiction?
It is unlikely that the brain will develop an addiction to scary movies or corn mazes during Halloween. However, the brain can get addicted to receiving pleasure from dopamine production. Whatever it is that stimulates the brain in this way will become an obsession over time. Danger seeking behavior can be problematic in addiction recovery, acting almost like an addiction-swap.