Sensation Seeking and Addiction The search for the perfect high.
Sky diving • Friend wanted to do something unique for her 50th birthday. • Her kids suggested skydiving. • Tandem dive. • Great experience even with a broken ankle.
Roller coasters • Some folks love them. • Go on coasters in the dark. • Loosen seatbelts. • Travel around the country. • Exciting and pleasurable. • For others, it’s a near death experience.
Extreme Sports • Thrill seekers. • Natural highs. • Action gamblers. • Speed freaks. • What do they have in common? • Rewarding pathways in the brain.
Hang gliding • Sport most likely to result in death. • Thrill seeking appears irrational. • Take unreasonable risks. • Trigger fight or flight response. • Adrenalin surge. • Stress reaction. • Why take the risk?
Thrill seekers report • Psychological high. • Sense of mastery. • Have developed skills. • Know how to use gear. • Coping skills. • Able to handle situation.
Developing skill • First timers report intense fear. • With practice, fear disappears. • Psychological high remains. • Self-satisfaction associated with highly developed coping skill. • Learn how to control fear.
Rope courses • Safe way to develop mastery. • Overcome fears. • Develop trust in community. • Improve self-image. • Used extensively in drug rehab with adolescents. • Team building for many different groups.
Marvin Zuckerman • Sensation seekers. • Some people need a higher level of stimulation to maintain mood. • Simulation falls mood slumps. • Push to keep stimulation levels as high as possible.
Sensory deprivation • Zuckerman was grad student in these studies. • Interested in subjects who hated deprivation. • Couldn’t tolerate low levels of stimulation. • Wanted new experiences.
Sensation Seeking Scale • Developed new scale: SSS. • Zuckerman on sensation seeking: • “a trait defined by the need for varied, novel and complex sensations and experiences. • And the willingness to take physical and social risks for the sake of such experiences.”
SSS components • 1) Thrill and adventure seeking. (action gamblers). • 2) Seek experiences outside the conventional lifestyle (travel, friends, art). • 3) Disinhibition: release of inhibitions, escape the pressures of daily life. (escape gamblers). • 4) Low tolerance for boredom, repetition and sameness.
SSS predictor of addiction • Sensation seeking as personality trait. • Correlated with alcoholism. • Gambling. • Perhaps common in all addictions.
Brain response to novelty • Brain waves to novel stimuli. • P3 waves. • Less reaction in alcoholics. • Need more stimulation?
Psychological characteristics • Related to biology? • Reward seeking. • Impulsive. • Easily bored. • Risk takers • Gregarious • Push the limits • Act out
Brain chemistry differences • Naturally higher levels of some mood chemicals. • Brain in high gear. • In order to feel high, have to push the brain beyond normal level of activity. • Greater sensation to get reward. • Potential for addiction.
Important for prevention • Gambling as example. • Primary: before start gambling. Prevent early exposure. • Secondary: intervene in early stages. Provide alternatives. • Tertiary: treatment. Understand the role of sensation seeking to avoid switching addictions.