Why is Skydiving so Addictive?
By Michele Blood, Ph.D.
For some, the decision to plan a trip to go skydiving near New York City was a foregone conclusion. It was not so much if you would ever go tandem skydiving. It was more a matter of when and where.
Many new jumpers have long been drawn to exhilarating activities of every stripe. For as long as they can remember, they were always the first to try something new, something fun, something a bit on the daring side. It’s almost as if their attraction to the rush were hard-wired.
In a very real sense, it is precisely that. Hard-wired.
Skydivers Experience the Thrill Differently
Researchers from Purdue and the University of Kentucky used functional MRIs (fMRIs) to study the brains of people who scored higher than average on measures of thrill-seeking behavior. What they found was fascinating, and it may help explain why so many of Skydive Jersey’s patrons return again and again to re-experience the thrill of tandem skydiving.
Essentially, folks who are drawn to exhilarating activities may actually experience those activities in a fundamentally different way than do average folks. In fact, when shown pictures of thrill-related activities, the brains of thrill seekers showed more activity in the area of the brain associated with addiction and less activity in the area of the brain associated with emotional regulation.
In other words, people who crave the adrenaline rush that skydiving provides may actually feel and experience more of a rush when engaging in (or even thinking of) those activities than those who are not similarly attracted. The draw to repeatedly experience that same rush is an undeniable, neurological reality.
The word “addiction” carries some powerful connotations in our culture, and few are positive. Thrill-seeking, on the other hand, is often accompanied more by a sense of awe and admiration by those who are not similarly inclined.
Perhaps neither “addiction” nor “awe” represents a useful way to conceptualize those who are drawn to serial skydiving.
Maybe Lady Gaga hit the nail on the head. Skydivers are “born that way”.
And proud of it.