What Does It Mean to Be a Sensation Seeker?

Man swinging from rope by waterfall

When spring arrives, many people can feel like they are glad to be alive, a feeling that can manifest in wanting to feel and do many new things. They chafe at the restrictions imposed by office jobs or any indoor activity, and want to get out in the world and feel the excitement of the season.

For some people, though, this feeling isn’t tied to the beginning of warm weather, or falling in love, or any discrete event. There are some people, called “sensation seekers,” that are always looking to increase their levels of stimulation, and feel bored and constricted on a regular basis.

How to Tell if You’re a Sensation Seeker

If you are a sensation seeker, or your partner is one, you will notice that there are many differences between sensation seekers and most other people.

Sensation seekers are always looking for something to make them feel excited and stimulated. They are the people who always try new things, who love to travel spontaneously, and who get bored with any routine.

In bed, they want to experiment with novel positions and ways of acting. Romantically, they are super invested in a new love interest, but over time, they can start acting bored and unhappy. Often, they find monogamy difficult.

Many individuals with ADHD can be sensation seekers, but this isn’t unique to people with this disorder. It is a temperament, and like all temperaments, it is heritable.

That means that most people who are sensation seekers can locate the origin of their temperament in one or both of their parents. They were always sensation seekers, from earliest childhood when they would climb high on the monkey bars or spin in circles endlessly till they fell down. Sensation seekers often have a history of broken bones, from risks that they took despite their parents urging them to be careful.

Sensation Seeking and Relationships

When two sensation seekers are in a relationship, it can be very intense and volatile. They can feel the highest highs and the lowest lows. These relationships are highly combustible, because neither person provides a stable ballast for the other.

Sensation seekers can be monogamous, but they often need to inject more excitement into their romantic relationships, such as by exploring more in the bedroom, or by involving their partner in their hobbies and other activities.

Relationships between a sensation seeker and a more stable person can be less volatile, but the stable partner often gets frustrated – even scared – by the sensation seeker’s tendency towards impulsiveness. They often castigate their partner, saying that they thrive on “drama” and are selfish and short-sighted.

To retaliate, the sensation seeker may accuse their partner of being rigid, dry, or boring. However, over time, sensation seekers and partners may learn how to balance one another out, and to see the best in each other’s style of being.

Finding Help for Sensation Seeking Behaviors

There are many ways that sensation seekers can fulfill their need for stimulation that are harmful to themselves and destructive to their relationships, behaviors like infidelity, substance use, and frequent job changing.

If this resonates with you (or describes your partner), then working with a therapist or coach may be very helpful. On the positive side, after introspection or therapy, or after having enough impulsive decisions turn out badly for them, most sensation seekers can eventually learn to fulfill their need for excitement in healthy ways. Many people who get involved in extreme sports or competitions are sensation seekers. So are entrepreneurs and people are love to travel.

Sensation seekers are very interesting and exciting people. Like any temperament type, there can be pros and cons to being, or being with one. But, no matter what, you know that life with a sensation seeker will never be boring.

Published by

Dr. Samantha Rodman

Clinical Psychologist