I think it's a kind of mental illness:
Steve Fossett's wealth made his epic adventures possible, but his relentless willingness to take risks is shared by other on-the-edge thrill-seekers whose exploits and setbacks have long fascinated psychologists as well as the public at large.
What prompts climbers to return to the mountains after losing toes to frostbite and partners to fatal falls? What prompts daredevil Alain Robert, the self-proclaimed "Spiderman," to scale scores of the world's tallest structures with bare hands and no safety net?
"When you get to the very bottom of people who take risks, it's the thrill of it," said Temple University psychologist Frank Farley. "It can be a physical thrill, it can be a mental thrill, or it can be both."
We can't be paralyzed by a fear of risk. We need to analyze the risk and assess the possible reward and act accordingly. Too many people are so risk-averse they will never take the chances they need to that will improve their lives. They're safe and dull and no fun to know. But the ones who take risk after risk when there is no reward at all except the thrill of having cheated death are scary. Sooner or later, they will go over the edge, and they frequently take others with them.