Cardiff Metropolitan University
[20635303 - Journal of Behavioral Addictions] Addiction in Extreme Sports_ An Exploration of Withdrawal States in Rock Climbers.pdf (178.83 kB)

Addiction in extreme sports: An exploration of withdrawal states in rock climbers

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posted on 2022-05-11, 14:55 authored by Robert M. Heirene, David Shearer, Gareth-Roderique-Davies, Stephen MellalieuStephen Mellalieu

 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 


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Journal of Behavioral Addictions


Akadémiai Kiadó


  • VoR (Version of Record)


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

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Stephen Mellalieu

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing in Demanding Environments

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  • © The Authors


  • en

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