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Adrenaline-boosting experiences to treat or alleviate depression symptoms

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Povilas S
Povilas S Dec 07, 2022
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Extreme, frightening and/or exciting experiences like sky diving, bungee jumping, rollercoaster rides, zip lining, etc. "prescribed" to people with various forms of depression to improve their condition.
  • Adrenaline plays an important role in both the pathophysiology and treatment of depression. Many antidepressants work by increasing adrenaline levels in the brain . Even though intense experiences create a so-called adrenaline rush which is rather short-lived and not a constant increase in adrenaline levels, they are a natural approach to boosting adrenaline.
  • During the adrenaline rush a person usually experiences increased energy and motivation, this is what people suffering from depression constantly lack and even a short experience of an improved condition might give a psychological push with lasting positive effects.
  • Extreme experiences are relatively harmless health-wise (compared to other means that might give a neurochemical boost like alcohol and drugs to which depressed people often turn) they are abundantly available and the only limitation for engaging in safe extreme experiences often might be a lack of finances which can be solved by allowances/governmental funding.
  • Intentional self-injury is a common phenomenon among people experiencing depressive symptoms. A psychological explanation for this is that it gives them temporary relief from negative emotions, a sort of grounding experience, feeling alive due to the ability to experience pain, something intense rather than numbed feelings. But the adrenaline release due to injury might very well contribute to this. Extreme experiences causing fear and excitement without physical injury seem like a better alternative.
How it works:
People who are not severely depressed and still have the motivation to seek means to alleviate their condition could try this themselves and see if and how well it works. But since the main issue with depression is a lack of motivation and ability to see purpose in doing just about anything, especially if it takes time and repeated effort (if they were to do it regularly), I feel that this would work best as a prescribed treatment.
Judging from a web search, there is a lack of studies investigating the positive influence of extreme activities on depression, and a few tries to apply this as a practical treatment. Those cases also don't seem to focus on adrenaline-boosting as a major helping factor.
Therefore the initial approach here would be experimental. The adrenaline-boosting activities could be prescribed regularly as an experimental treatment and the condition of patients observed over longer periods of time. Biochemical analysis to determine levels of adrenaline and other contributing hormones/neurotransmitters in the involved patients could also be performed during the course of treatment.
Imagine a sort of therapeutic amusement park camp where people suffering from depression and potentially other mental illnesses go to, live for some time, engage in adrenaline-boosting activities daily and slowly statistical and scientific conclusions are drawn. If proven effective, the therapeutic amusement park keeps functioning and more of those get established.
For the time being, if someone having a possibility would get a severely depressed person out of bed, carry them to a racing car, buckle them up and drive around at high speed with sharp turns performed by a professional driver, I can already see their eyes opening up a bit.




Creative contributions

Why it should work

jnikola Dec 08, 2022
I thought it was exciting, so I roamed the Internet to check if it could work. I found an old research article from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine that assessed the efficiency of two distinct classes of antidepressives:
  • four norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors which work by increasing the synaptic activity of adrenaline in the brain
  • four selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which elicit their effects by increasing the activity of serotonin in the brain (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa)
It was interesting that all medications were beneficial for animal models which were able to produce norepinephrine. However, when animal models couldn't produce norepinephrine, only citalopram worked. That meant that although the second group of inhibitors relied on serotonin metabolism, most of the medications were dependent on epinephrine. In other words, if there is no norepinephrine, the molecule from which the epinephrine (adrenaline) is made, the antidepressants do not work. If not to completely treat depression with adrenaline rush from amusement parks, there is a high chance that they would enhance the results of medication-based therapy.
Things to be careful about
Direct relationship needs to yet be determined
Although norepinephrine is needed for antidepressants to work, the same should be showed for epinephrine, too.
More factors involved
We need to have in mind that many other molecules play important roles in development and experience of depression.
Long term effects of the adrenaline rush
Is there a possibility for the patients to experience even worse symptoms of depression after consequent adrenaline rush events that boost adrenaline? What if they feel awesome while in the amusement park, but feel significantly worse than before when back home?
Energy-demanding activities
I am concerned that roller-coasters and similar attractions that boost adrenaline could end up being very energy-exhausting and thus unwanted by the patients experiencing depression. The problem is how to easily get them there if they have no will to live.


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Povilas S
Povilas S2 years ago
Yes, I saw that article when doing a web search for the idea. I think it's not that important to show that antidepressants don't work without adrenaline. It might serve as a stronger argument/proof for the efficiency of the idea, but I think it's enough to note that many antidepressants work by increasing the level of adrenaline in the brain, therefore the natural increase in adrenaline would also likely serve an antidepressant function.
Long-term effects are also what I'm most concerned about. I've read that increased adrenaline levels could result in anxiety and insomnia. However, I'm not sure if experiencing an adrenaline rush often leads to increased general levels of adrenaline. I've read that heightened levels of adrenaline in the body after an adrenaline rush last for up to an hour, I tried to google whether people engaging in risky activities often have a higher base level of adrenaline, but couldn't find such information.
So a temporary rush of adrenaline could be both a pro and a con here - a con, because it doesn't maintain a stable increase in adrenaline levels, and a pro because there's no risk for adverse effects of heightened general adrenaline levels. My hunch reasoning is that a strong and sudden increase in adrenaline levels in depressed patients might give them a psychological push necessary to jump-start their motivation for life. Of course, one time is not enough, but experiencing such boosts repeatedly for some time might do the job.
Depression varies greatly in levels of severity. Many patients are still willing to seek treatment themselves and even live their usual lives to a greater or lesser extent, especially if they're taking medications. In cases of severe depression, I think it would make sense to have medical staff do this for them, especially if the method was proven to work with patients with less severe forms of depression. It might take literally carrying someone to the rollercoaster and back. I think with severe depression patients sometimes are washed and fed by others, so this would really be what's required.
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Adrenaline park for everyone

Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković Dec 09, 2022
I like the idea as a whole but particularly the part of an adrenaline park. With the park being open to non-depressed people too as everyone could also enjoy the benefits of an adrenaline boost. Make it a weekend retreat maybe, in a way people do silent-retreats now.
Obviously, theme parks exist, but besides rollercoaster rides, there should be other forms of adrenaline-inducing activities grouped as rides aren't for everyone due to age, ableness, body type, or preferences.
For instance, you get a stamp for every activity you do, and you can't leave the park if you don't get at least three.
Like encounters with creepy insects or spiders.
Having a haunted house there could also do the trick.
Some social interactions could achieve an adrenaline shock. Like having an auditorium where you have to do some public speaking, karaoke, or stand-up comedy.
Firing range could also do.
What else?
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 years ago
Adrenaline park as compared to an amusement park and other types of entertainment is, I think, a novel enough idea to be worth implementing, but making it for both people with depression/other mental health problems and everyone else is not a good idea in a therapeutic sense. If we want the best therapeutic effect for depressed people it should be something like I described in the idea description - a specialized place for only mental health patients, like a camp where they spent a dedicated amount of time and are monitored by specialists.
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