Risk-Taking behavior definition

Risk-taking behavior: Any voluntary behaviors that put an individual in danger of potentially serious injuries or death. Risk-taking behaviors include:

• Riding a motorcycle at high speeds with or without a helmet

• Driving a vehicle at very high speeds • Abusing alcohol or drugs

• Driving while intoxicated

• Various extreme sports


• In some branches of service, more service members have been killed in motorcycle accidents than in combat.

• Service Members returning from combat are 25% more likely to die from post-combat injury related deaths than those who served in the military, but did not see combat.


• Developing new identity – “combat self”

• Creating strong bonds – a sense of brotherhood • Preparing for the worst case scenario – kill or be killed

• Emphasis on remaining hyper-vigilant and looking at all situations with suspicion • Conditioned for quick reactions and decision – reacting on impulse or reflex

• Ability to clear mind of other distractions – focus on mission at hand


The Combat Stress Reaction: A normal reaction to the continued state of alertness and hyper-vigilance required in a combat zone Fight or Flight Response:

• A threatening or potentially threatening event occurs

• Chemicals are released in the body causing a flight or fight response

• Fight or flight increases arousal and intensifies the initial response

• Endorphins are released

• Emotional and physical pain are reduced


Invincibility and the “combat rush”

• A conditioned emotional response to trauma • Feelings of power and excitement during combat

• Creates a feeling of invincibility – “I survived combat, therefore I can survive anything in civilian life.” Post combat:

• Civilian life may seem boring

• A desire to recreate the combat rush ( this can intensify with multiple deployments and exposure to violence and death)

• The desire to recreate the combat rush can lead to risk-taking behaviors

• The sense of brotherhood disappears as units re-organize and adjust after a return from deployment; i.e. – assignment and unit changes


Service members are especially vulnerable to risk-taking behaviors during the transition to civilian life. It’s important to have a plan in place while making this transition.


• Have a plan

• Stay busy

• Find safe and structured ways to exert physical and mental energy

• Take a motorcycle safety course and join a motorcycle club

• Engage in competitive sports such as: baseball, football, basketball, paint ball, martial arts, boxing

• Engage in non-competitive sports such as: Jogging, biking or working out at the gym

• Build a network of friends and confidants

• Have diversity in your life; find that balance


• Realize there is a reason the body reacts by creating the desire for risk-taking behavior

• Repeated exposure to combat creates a continuous fight or flight response and release of chemicals such as adrenalin and endorphins

• Surviving post-combat requires devising a plan, staying busy and engaging in safe and structured activities

• Support should be an important component of the postcombat plan

• If these suggestions don’t work and risk-taking behaviors continue, seek help from a behavioral health professional