Gaming Addiction is a Manifestation of Adrenaline Addiction:
Dr. Archibald Hart, a leading expert in adrenaline addiction, believes that the most dangerous drug today is excitement or the adrenaline that produces it. Dr. Hart, a self-professing former adrenaline addict himself, has an excellent book out entitled Thrilled to Death. He and others believe that we live in a time that easily lends itself to burning out the pleasure centers of the brain. We are constantly surrounded by high stimulation activities with the advent of email, text messaging, Internet (e.g. Internet gambling, viral videos), and video games to name a few.

America is not alone in witnessing the rise in gaming addiction. China has classified 2.6 million of its 20 million that are younger than 18 as gaming addicts. During the Lunar New Year in 2007, a 26-year old gamer with the alias “Zhang,” died alone in his home after apparently engaging in a week long online gaming marathon which he passed out and never regained consciousness.

Several years ago a 15-year-old boy collapsed and went into convulsions after playing World of Warcraft for 24 hours.

In one survey of gamers, Psychologist Professor Mark Griffiths found several gamers that logged in more than 80 hours a week! Although Dr. Griffiths concludes that playing excessively is not a problem for the majority of gamers, the rise in gamers worldwide and its potential for addiction at epidemic levels I believe is clearly evident.

Adrenaline addiction has many manifestations besides gaming. Other “process addictions” are workaholism, shopping, certain sexual practices (i.e. cybersex, pornography), thrill-seeking behaviors (e.g. bungee cord jumping), and any activity involving a screen or monitor.

Why the Craving for Adrenaline:

Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands which are located on top of the kidneys. These glands are triggered when our mind experiences either excitement or fear (“flight or fight” coping mechanism). Adrenaline has been proven to make us stronger or enable us to stay awake for long periods of time as in the cases of gaming addicts. This “super” hormone has enabled people to literally lift cars off of people to save their lives whereas under normal circumstances they could not exercise such a feat. A few additional benefits or affects of adrenaline are:

  • Gives a heightened sense of well-being
  • Linked to the “pleasure center” of our brain in providing us with what is known as exquisite pleasure
  • Enables us to get angry or passionate during an argument, conflict, or a cause

Located on the outer layer of the adrenal glands is the adrenal cortex. This section of the adrenal glands produces a group of hormones called glucocorticoids. The most common and popular hormone that comes from this is cortisol which is a steroid. Cortisol helps fight inflammation, raises the blood sugar level, and increases muscle tension among other things. The section of the adrenal glands called the adrenal medulla produces a group of hormones known as catecholamines, one of which is adrenaline.

The problem with this “feel good” hormone that was designed to alleviate stress on a short term basis or for emergency situations is that too much of a good thing ends up being a bad thing. Adrenaline can increase our cholesterol level, blood pressure, and even cause a heart attack from being too angry.

Adrenaline addiction is often relied upon to overcome boredom or stress. Often times when someone experiences a drop in their adrenaline levels they will turn to caffeine which is a adrenaline stimulant. Hence, the caffeine addict.

(This section is taken from Dr. Hart’s lecture on Adrenaline Addiction, 2009).

Negative Consequences:

Adrenaline addiction is not a cute name to name your sporting good store, energy drink, clothing brand, or rock band. Too many people laugh off or scoff at the very real negative ramifications of adrenaline. Here are just a few of the more serious ones: cardiac disease, stroke, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, diabetes, obesity, panic anxiety disorder, and major depression (Hart 2009).

Did you know that the #1 mental health problem for women in the U.S. is panic anxiety disorder (of which cortisol is responsible), according to Dr. Hart? Did you know that both panic anxiety disorder and major depression are both epidemic disorders? An interesting recent trend in depression is that the age group for an onset of major depression use to be between 40-45. Now it is 14 (Hart 2009). This is scary.

Symptoms of Adrenaline Addiction (Hart 2009):

Here are a few symptoms or signs that you may be experiencing adrenaline addiction:

  • Feelings of guilt when idle (workaholism)
  • Post adrenaline depression
  • Restlessness, pacing, nervous habits
  • Obsessed over things that are left undone
  • Strong compulsion to always be doing something

Soteriology or Salvation from Adrenaline Addiction:

Adrenaline was never meant to be our master. We were meant to regulate the flow at a manageable level that brings health, vitality, and wholeness. In order to recover from this addiction we have to learn to pay attention to what is going on in our body and make appropriate adjustments. For example, if you are bored, think of an activity that incorporates your family members. You must recognize immediately the “triggers” or “cues” or your motivation to engaging in high stimulation activities mentioned earlier.

Some other lifestyle changes we may need to make are with our diet, personality, anger management, and activities that promote peacefulness. Another temptation that many feel compelled by is the “success syndrome.” Many people become workaholics to prove themselves to others or feel like success makes them feel significant. At this point, may I interject some appropriate theology. You can never impress God nor find acceptance from God through all the good deeds in the world alone.

One last treatment strategy has to do with a long forgotten practice in meditation and relaxing techniques. There currently is a resurgence in bringing these back into American life.


“Addiction & Recovery” (speaker Dr. Archibald Hart). Adrenaline Addiction. Lesson 16. DVD., 2009