Why Are We Addicted To Extreme Sports?

Why Are We Addicted To Extreme Sports?

People seem to love stuff like bungee jumping
and sky-diving. But what draws us to these scary life-threatening experiences? Why do
we want to jump off of stuff? On May 16, 2015, Dean Potter, a celebrated
extreme sportsman, and a fellow climber, Graham Hunt; jumped off a 7,500 foot (2,285m) cliff
in Yosemite National Park with the goal of wingsuit flying through the rocky cliffs before
parachuting to safety. Both men crashed while trying to fly through an outcropping and were
found dead many hours later. BASE jumping is an acronym for buildings, antennas, spans
(such as bridges) and Earth (cliffs and mountaintops) — all places to jump from while wearing a
wingsuit, parachute or both. At least 257 people have died BASE jumping to date, according
to a major BASE jumping forum; and Potter, who was a major enthusiast for outdoor “extreme”
sports, called BASE jumping and free-climbing, “death-consequence” activities. Aren’t we all programmed to survive? Why do
we risk death for a thrill? More than 800 people have died climbing the mountains of
Nepal — including Everest,; 442 from skydiving from 1998 to 2014 – and even scuba-diving
sees about 80 deaths annually. I mean, skateboarding had 30 deaths in 2012! Psychologists believe
we perform risky behaviors because of our fear response, and medical researchers believe
it has to do with the brain’s reward systems; though both are true. In a small study from the Queensland University
of Technology in Australia; researchers explored the psychological result of fear responses
in extreme sports participants. Fear is an important inborn response to perceived danger.
Your body’s top priority is to preserve itself; fear is a way to motivate it to do so. But
for some people, overcoming fear was a meaningful and constructive event in their lives. They
still EXPERIENCE fear, but it’s not seen as a negative, but rather, a positive experience. Potter wrote specifically, and poetically,
about his experiences with fear, and how overcoming that fear was transformative for him. Unfortunately,
that’s not easily translatable for a general population — instead we can only look at
how the chemicals in our brains surrounding fear go on to affect our behavior. When jumping out of an airplane or free-climbing
up a cliff, an almond-shaped set of neurons in our brain called the amygdala releases
hormones which quicken the heart, hone the senses and prepare your body to flee or fight.
During this fear response, our brains’ reward center releases large amounts of dopamine.
Studies have shown, dopamine, a powerful reward chemical for our bodies, is also connected
to the recollection of terror. It’s released when we eat, exercise, or talk to our friends
and family, and reinforces those healthy behaviors by making us feel good about doing those things.
But, massive dopamine release is associated with drug use, and addiction; which is how
extreme athletes and enthusiasts are often associated with junkies or addicts. Extreme athletes provoke this fear response
in themselves, experiencing the fear of death, and enjoying the natural-high they get from
the dopamine release that follows. The problem is, the brain can get used to high-levels
of dopamine, and thus, more extreme events may have to be performed to simply enjoy day-to-day
life. This is called sensation-seeking behavior; language created to describe heavy-use drug
addicts. A 2004 study compared ecstasy-users to bungee-jumpers and found similar sensation-seeking
brain chemistry. The reason people continue to do these activities,
aside from them being fun and making them feel good, is once their brain gets acclimated
to higher levels of dopamine, it’s difficult to wean it off. Like an addict, the brain
craves MORE dopamine to feel the same high. In the end, the risk and reward are real,
and people can alter their brain chemistry to get a “natural high” from things like BASE
jumping. But I’m not trying to condemn people who seek out sensations. Sure, Dean Potter
participated in dangerous behaviors, but he ALSO inspired people all over the globe to
explore their planet first-hand; to get off their couches and into their National Parks;
into their world, and to try their hand at things they may not have otherwise. Extreme sports can extend to long-distance
races like marathons or ultra-marathons; but this man is 104 and still runs races. So they
can’t be THAT dangerous, right? Seeker Daily reveals a man who just won’t quit running
(soundup) Thanks for watching DNews, get out there and do something today.

4 thoughts on “Why Are We Addicted To Extreme Sports?

  1. I'm a skydiver, I don't fear jumping, in the beginning I did, but once I realized that I wasn't going to die, …now it's just about the joy of flying like a bird. It's peaceful and relaxing

  2. We addicted because we don't want to see parents nagging us ! Especially who are helicopter one👋👋😈

  3. My sport is skydiving. I think I'm in the sweet spot. I can only do it on weekends so I think the rush is infrequent enough that I'll never become chemically desensitized. Granted I only have 100 jumps so I guess I'll find out.

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