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.


  1. I WANT TO INJECT EXTREME INTO MY BLOOD STREAM AND MAKE EXTREME BABIES. This will then lead to the creation of the terminator.

  2. wow
    this got me really motivated to explore
    try something new
    now I have my after – work – before – bedtime – beer on the right end of my couch rather than the left

  3. I've never been seriously injured doing extreme sports.
    Driving drunk friends home—as designated driver—I was almost killed by a drunk driver.  Crushed car, jaws of life, and two weeks later, I woke up in the hospital—in traction, mostly broken from head to ass. 
    IMHO, driving is still the most dangerous thing I do.  I have to trust all sorts of idiots in other cars coming at me.

  4. "The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It's a wonderful way to live. It's the only way to drive." – Rush (2013)

  5. If someone dies doing extreme sports like skydiving it's just natural selection. Hopefully they haven't had kids yet.

  6. The same reason people do drugs, eat shitty food, or spend all day playing video games… dopamine reward system

  7. The only extreme sport on this list is free climbing on the side of a mountain, or rock wall. Everything else is just as safe as if you were to take a jog due to all of the safety equipment. If you're not taking care of the equipment or making the decision to try something far more dangerous you're just an idiot. I'm actually planning on doing at least one of these sports and I'm moderately afraid of heights, that is without safety gear.

  8. "Death consequence activities" – Is that another way of saying "stupid?" Yes, I watched the video, but I still don't get why somebody would want to do that for fun. Oh well, not my life…

  9. Can someone help me with this??? I have a problem. I'm a varsity runner, and kind of average to good. I run a 4:50 mile and a 2:09 800. Yet I fucking hate it. I don't feel any dopamine or high when I do it, but why do I carry on running. Why?

  10. Some activities just fool our brain that we are doing something dangerous.

    Rock climbing with ropes is pretty safe.

  11. Ha! I feel all warm and fuzzy when I hear someone dies from extreme sports.

    Ahhhhhh, Life removing the idiots.

  12. Don't say "WE" because I am not a moron that thinks bungie jumping or skydiving is cool what so fucking ever! Only those with death wishes attempt this shit "just for fun"

  13. I can't believe most humans do such stupid things. I have risked my life before, but for reasons… never just for a thrill. Only an idiot would risk their life for the fun of it.

  14. As someone with 650+ skydives in ~2 years I don't believe that I'm chasing fear everytime I jump. I can climb out on the edge of a plane and let go all while being calm and knowing that I have two perfectly good parachutes on my back. Sure, some jumps are more intense than others – I like to relate it to driving a car: When you first start to drive you're nervous and scared, but you eventually get comfortable and it becomes second hand (for some, they may be nervous all the time). Though, if you were to race another car or take a fast turn or something like that your heart will jump a little faster, similar to an intense skydive.

  15. Glad to see both sides of the story. I've heard lots of reports on DP's death carrying a negative message about the dangers of outdoor sports.

    Fact is, people like Dean appreciate life as much as anyone else (if not more). They work hard at pushing boundaries that remind them of the beauty and fragility of life while making safety a no.1 priority. Sometimes things go wrong but we should focus on people's accomplishment, not their failures.

  16. Because so much of everyday life is boring and adrenaline rushes are exciting.  That's the draw of extreme sports.

  17. I hate the sensation that adrenaline has on me, so I hate extreme stuff, but in my case I think it's a little bit exagerated, I mean, I can't even get close to a rollercoaster because I start to feel kind of sick, so I'll never enjoy one if I ever get in one for a ride.

  18. It's funny how people who are afraid to do those things come up with a theory that it's all about "fear" and overcoming "fear".   As someone who used to skydive and does a lot of extreme sports (snowboarding, windsurfing, etc.).  I can tell you it has little to do with fear and more to do with fun, being challenged, and doing something unique and interesting.    It has everything to do with the experience.  If it were about fear then we would all be sitting around watching horror movies now wouldn't we?   The people who push themselves to new "extremes" are looking for a new challenge not something to make them more scared…  There is a "high" associated to overcoming a challenge or an obstacle.  It doesn't matter if you're skydiving, running, hiking, biking, roller skating, or dancing.

  19. Ever see a little kid get excited about a new toy or a piece of candy? Extreme sports is the same thing. It's the addiction to the dopamine response. Betcha people who are into extreme sports have parts of their brains similar to children.

  20. Well that explains the overwhelming urge to drive blindfolded through the park that I've been getting lately.

  21. Sorry @Trace Dominguez , but I have to disagree with your final comments about Dean Potter. Let's say he's telling people to try new things, and that's great. But it would also seem that he's glamorizing his lifestyle choices and it's actually encouraging other people to do the same. If I have kids (or other adult loved ones who never really grew up) and they saw a man who just did extreme sports saying "this is the greatest feeling ever," wouldn't they be encouraged to try something that dangerous?

    I think extreme sports addicts should be treated like drug addicts – that is, they should be encouraged to seek psychological treatment. And I think extreme sports videos should have a mature rating and should not be shown to people below 18.

  22. Interesting that you mentioned that people should go out, to their national parks, instead of just nature… Why not just go out into any forest instead of particularly a national park?

  23. There's nothing quite like the feeling of Flight, even if just for a few second, even knowing you can't actually fly, but being in the air, no worries, nothing holding you back except your mind, being completely free from everything, is amazing. That's parkour. There's nothing quite like it.

  24. I've never smoked ever, or get high/Drugs or anything like that….. but this here…. is my drug addiction High… shout out to all my SuperSportBike riders…MTB… BMX…SKYDIVERS/JUMPERS.. parkourers lol

  25. Extreme sport teaches your ability and patience more than just watching a football match and yelling at players.Its better to die testing ability than getting railed by a drunken driver while taking a walk on the pavement.Not joking Its true.pedestrians die EXTREMELY more on road in our planet everyday than extreme sportsmen do.Now go make a video for those innocent souls too…

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  27. 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

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

  29. 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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