Taking risks

About taking risks

Risk taking is when we do things that might be harmful or dangerous, but at the same time are exciting and give us a 'buzz'.

Risk taking becomes a problem when it's done without thinking about consequences, even if they include serious injury or death.

The key is to find the right balance.

If you are worried about your level of risk taking

Are your decisions dangerous? Ask yourself:

  • Are the risks you take potentially life threatening, such as driving too fast or getting into physical fights with people?

  • Do you think you take more risks than other people?

  • Do you often look back on something you did and think you could have died or been seriously injured?

  • Do you often get into trouble for doing things without thinking it through?

  • Have you been injured or become sick because of your risky behaviour?

  • Do you take party drugs without worrying about what they are or where they came from?

  • Do you have unsafe sex or indulge in other risky sexual behaviours?

If so, you might want to do something about it.

You don’t have to give up having fun, but it is important to stay safe. Risk taking is not necessarily wrong or bad for you, but you should make decisions with regard to consequences - especially if they might kill you.

Risk-taking behaviour may indicate an underlying issue such as posttraumatic stress. Seek professional help to learn if there is a link between your behaviour and PTSD.

If you are concerned about your choices, or those of a loved one, call Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046 for free and confidential 24-hour support.

If someone is in imminent danger, call 000.

Understand why you take risks

Some people are natural risk takers, while others take risks because they want approval or respect.

Some people undertake risk-taking behaviour to cope with problems, such as feeling down, worthless or angry.

Some people start taking lots of risks after they have been through a highly stressful experience like a military deployment. They get so used to being 'hyped up' on adrenalin that life back home seems boring and pointless.

Take action

Find enjoyable activities to replace risky activities

Sometimes, risk taking is a response to boredom.

Being aware of the activities you enjoy can help you make better choices. Use the Enjoyable and Rewarding Activities tool to identify rewarding activities and plan how you will get started.

You can use this tool whenever you get stuck for ideas.

If your risk taking is related to drinking or drug use, think about addressing those issues specifically.

Recognise

Is your drinking risky?

If you are drinking too much, it could be putting your health and safety at risk. And that of your family.

Use the drink AUDIT tool and answer a series of questions about your recent drinking habits to find out if you are drinking at a risky level. It'll also start you thinking about the impact of your drinking on your health and behaviour.

You can also use the Track tool in the ON TRACK with The Right Mix app to keep a record of your drinking over time.

Do you take risks when you feel angry? Are there times when you don’t care if you get hurt or even deliberately self-harm? All of these are common in people who take excessive risks. Dealing with these underlying problems will reduce the need for you to take lots of risks.

If you don’t want to stop taking risks

Lots of sports – like sky diving, rock climbing or white water rafting – can provide the kind of adrenalin rush that risk taking provides. For some people, other risks like performing on stage in front of a crowd can be a huge buzz. If they are done with some thought, all of these activities can be safe as well as fun.

When you start thinking about risky behaviours, think about the consequences and what could happen if something goes wrong:

  • Assess the risk – think before you act. Just stop for a minute and think through the possible risks and dangers. Ask yourself:
    • Are the risks too great?
    • Is it worth it?
    • What can I do to reduce the risk and make it safer? For example, if I’m about to have sex with someone new, I’ll make sure we use a condom. If I want to take drugs, I’ll make sure I know exactly what I’m taking and ask someone to check up on me from time to time. If I’m planning a heavy session of drinking, I won’t drive.
  • Work out some ground rules for yourself and stick to them so you know before you get into a situation whether or not it is a reasonable risk. Your 'rules' might be to never be in a car with a drunk driver ... never to have unprotected sex ... never start a dangerous activity without checking the equipment.
  • Work out what’s important to you and judge the risks accordingly. If sport and other physical activities are important to you, don’t do things with a high risk of physical injury. If you value your relationship with a loved one, don’t do things that will damage it.
  • Find people whose judgment you trust, spend time with them, and use them as "sounding boards". If everyone else thinks something is too dangerous to do, it probably is.

Having fun is a vital part of life and sometimes taking risks keeps us feeling alive. But taking risks without first considering the danger involved or how you can keep yourself safe can be a sign that something else is wrong.

If so, it’s worth sorting out those other problems before you do yourself serious damage. And if you are going to keep taking risks, just make sure they are calculated risks that you have thought through.