Beware of Adrenaline Addiction in the Workplace

Author Tracy Smith
April 22, 2019

When one thinks of an adrenaline rush, they usually link it to skydiving, car racing, or some other high stakes game.  Rarely would one consider that an adrenaline rush could come from the workplace.  However, there are certain individuals who experience a rush from taking big and important risks at work. 


Adrenaline is a main ingredient in the body’s fight or flight response.  At the slightest sign of danger, the body will go into high alert and release adrenaline.  The adrenaline rush causes several physiological changes, including elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, higher respiration rate, and an increase in blood and oxygen.  Many individuals enjoy the sensation that an adrenaline rush can trigger and for some, it can become addictive. 

Adrenaline addiction is similar to other types of addiction in that it is characterized by obsessive and compulsive factors.  Adrenaline is similar to dopamine, which is a brain chemical that instigates feelings of pleasure and well-being and also plays a role in addiction.  This is telling when considering the type of pleasure and addictive nature that an adrenaline rush can have.  People may look for adrenaline rushes at work to make them feel more powerful or to help them to keep their boredom and anxiety at bay. 

Most people delve into their work and actively seek adrenaline rushes to conceal negative feelings, emotions, or thoughts.  The powerful rush of positive feelings makes them feel good and delving into work provides a great distraction to whatever is going wrong in their lives.

There are several ways that an individual can instigate and seek an adrenaline rush at work.  They may take on high risk projects or deals that seemingly have little chance of success.  This can be extremely hazardous for a company if the project or deals do not work out or fall through at the last moment.  People may attempt to create a competitive work environment to instigate competition amongst co-workers.  This competition can sabotage morale and relationships in the workplace.  This type of competition can also cause others to perceive them poorly and create an obstacle for long-term success. 

For some careers, adrenaline rushes may be built into the day to day experience of the job.  An emergency room physician may experience a rush every time that he attempts to save a patient’s life.  A lawyer may feel an adrenaline surge when he is giving his closing statement for a high profile case.  A firefighter can feel it every time they run towards a burning building to save a person who is trapped.  

An adrenaline addiction in the workplace can result in workaholism, competition amongst co-workers, or inequitable work-life balance.  People may become workaholics in their quest for adrenaline, as they work longer hours and put forth more effort to attain these types of rushes.  Individuals may not realize the impact that they are having on their family members or co-workers, until a spouse threatens divorce or when they learn that their job is in jeopardy. 

An adrenaline addiction may also trigger physical health problems when a person works too many hours and does not prioritize self-care.  This can lead to chronic levels of stress, which can impact work performance.  Adrenaline addictions can also cause mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or guilt. 

Thankfully, there are ways to manage and overcome an adrenaline addiction in the workplace.  Individuals need to employ healthy coping mechanisms to manage upsetting thoughts or emotions that their adrenaline rush can mask.  They must be willing to examine and process their underlying issues instead of constantly seeking a temporary, powerful rush.  Exercise, sleep, and diet are essential components to overcoming an adrenaline addiction in the workplace.  Meditation, yoga, or journaling can help a person to confront and process underlying factors.  Professional counseling, couples therapy, or family therapy can help a person when a person’s marriage and familial relationships have been negatively impacted.

Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.