Stress Addicts Suffer For the Rush
> 5/31/2007 11:21:27 AM

While the larger population spends millions of dollars and countless hours each year searching for the ultimate stress-relief formula through exercise, structured relaxation and chemical cocktails both prescribed and recreational, many people (including a large number in that very group) actually seem to thrive on high-anxiety situations and lifestyles, seeking out or creating dramatic circumstances and relying on the adrenaline rushes they provide. Whether they happen to be students racing through crucial assignments at the last minute, anxious business executives brokering high-level make-or-break deals, or parents looking to further involve themselves in every aspect of their children's lives, these individuals feel an almost addictive need to be challenged on a primal level each day. Like a morning dose of caffeine, they seem to think that these mini-crises are essential to their daily functions.

So is this devotion to adrenaline healthy, neccessary, or even beneficial in the first place? In most cases, probably not. Many people understandably look for a little excitement in their lives, and the "highs" that induced stress provides can be thrilling, convincing the individuals involved that they are completing particularly important tasks or that their performance quality is amplified by the power surge, but the habit has more than its share of negative side effects: lack of sleep, less attention paid to physical health and diet, and, in the long run, a greater incidence of chronic stress fatigue, obsessive tendencies, diabetes, and even heart disease. It can also facilitate unhealthy behaviors like gambling, binge drinking, smoking, and argumentative behavior. And as with more common addictions, adrenaline dependency can warp one's perspective to the point of self-deception: stress does not usually heighten acuity or efficiency. As any veteran of athletics or public speaking can tell you, performance stress, a sensation distinct from the thrill of confronting a challenge, is almost never a good thing. In a manner similar to other types of self-stimulation, the adrenaline high is inevitably followed by a fall, which can often turn into an ugly crash: exhaustion, illness, loss of focus, etc.

The endless string of trendy articles citing the benefits of regular exercise, yoga, breathing techniques and other forms of self-maintenance have a very cogent point:�� mastering the art of relaxation, or achieving a sense of comfort in demanding circumstances (even if it's illusory), will increase one's degree of success and satisfaction more than any form of momentary rush. While adrenaline junkies may live for the thrills their addiction provides, they are inevitably damaging their minds and bodies in ways they cannot even appreciate. Like more traditional addicts, they may need a little more than subtle suggestion to realize that they're nursing a serious long-term problem.

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