Addiction in extreme sports: An exploration of withdrawal states in rock climbers
Mellalieu, Stephen D.
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Background and aims: Extreme sports athletes are often labelled ‘adrenaline junkies’ by the media, implying they are addicted to their sport. Research suggests during abstinence these athletes may experience withdrawal states characteristic of individuals with an addiction (Celsi et al., 1993; Franken et al., 2006; Willig, 2008). Despite this notion, no research has directly explored withdrawal experiences of extreme sports athletes. Methods: Using semi-structured interviews we explored withdrawal experiences of high (n=4) and average-ability (n=4) male rock climbers during periods of abstinence. We investigated the psychological and behavioural aspects of withdrawal, including craving, anhedonia and negative affect; and differences in the frequency and intensity of these states between groups. Results: Deductive content analysis indicated support for each of the three categories of anhedonia, craving and negative affect. Consistent with existing substance addiction literature, high-ability climbers recalled more frequent and intense craving states and negative affect during abstinence compared with average-ability climbers. No differences in anhedonic symptoms between high and average-ability participants were found. Conclusions: Rock climbing athletes appear to experience withdrawal symptoms when abstinent from their sport comparable to individuals with substance and behavioural addictions. The implications of these findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Heirene, R.M., Shearer, D., Roderique-Davies, G. & Mellalieu, S.D. (2016) 'Addiction in extreme sports: An exploration of withdrawal states in rock climbers', Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5 (2), pp. 332-341
Dynodwr Gwrthrych Digidol (DOI)http://dx.doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.039
This article was published in Journal of Behavioral Addictions on 27 June 2016 (online), available open access at http://dx.doi.org/10.1556/2006.5.2016.039
- Sport Research Groups 
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Roderique-Davies, Gareth; Heirene, Robert M.; Mellalieu, Stephen D.; Shearer, David A. (Frontiers Media, 2018-02-22)Conceptual similarities have been identified between experiences of extreme sports athletes and those with drug and behavioural addictions. Evidence suggests rock climbers experience craving and other withdrawal-like states ...
Response to “Nature fix: Addiction to outdoor activities” R. C. Buckley’s commentary on Heirene, R. M., Shearer, D., Roderique-Davies, G., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2016). Addiction in extreme sports: An exploration of withdrawal states in rock climbers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5, 332–341. Heirene, Robert M.; Shearer, David; Mellalieu, Stephen D.; Roderique-Davies, Gareth (Akademiai Kiado, 2016-12-21)Buckley’s commentary on our study of rock climber’s withdrawal experiences raises a number of important questions surrounding the concept of extreme or adventure sports addiction. Drawing on the few available investigations ...
Jones, Carwyn (Taylor and Francis, 2015)D’Angelo and Tamburrini invited readers to consider doping in sport as a health issue and dopers as potential addicts who need therapy rather than offenders who need punishing. The issue of addiction in sport is important ...