It is well-known that persons with a drug addiction experience feelings of anhedonia during "normal" daily activities. It has been proposed that these symptoms of anhedonia are the result of direct pharmacological influences of drugs on the dopamine system. To test the assumption that nonpharmacological processes are also involved in anhedonia, we studied anhedonic symptoms in skydivers who regularly expose themselves to thrillful extreme sport activity and then experience intense hedonic feelings. A group of skydivers completed anhedonia scales and their scores were compared to a control group (a group of rowers). The main finding of the present study was that subjects who engage in the high-risk activity of skydiving, experienced more anhedonic symptoms than subjects who do not engage in such an extreme sport, but rather prefer a low-risk activity like rowing. This finding supports the notion that skydiving has similarities with addictive behaviors and that frequent exposure to "natural high" experiences is related to anhedonia. This suggests that the negative emotional state as observed in drug users may not be exclusively the results of exogenous psychopharmacological effects, but might also result from psychological mechanisms that are partly responsible for these anhedonic feelings.

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Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry
Department of Psychology

Franken, I.H.A, Zijlstra, C, & Muris, P.E.H.M. (2006). Are nonpharmacological induced rewards related to anhedonia? A study among skydivers. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 30(2), 297–300. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2005.10.011