(NaturalNews) When the Super Bowl has concluded, many football fans will start to experience some of the same physiological withdrawal symptoms that drug addicts feel when deprived, according to Dr. Angelos Halaris of Loyola University Medical Center.
The withdrawal effects come not from the game itself, but from the fact that it marks the end of football season, Halaris said. Any time human beings engage in enjoyable activities, their brains release the pleasure-producing neurotransmitter dopamine. For a fan, football season consists of a steady series of dopamine releases as the thrills build. When the pleasurable stimulation is removed, the brain experiences withdrawal from dopamine, much like the brain of a smoker deprived of nicotine.
"When the football season is over and there's no other game on the schedule for months, you're stuck, so you go through withdrawal," Halaris said.
According to a January 2012 poll, football is by far the most popular sport in the United States. 36 percent of sports fans rank it as their favorite, compared with only 13 percent for baseball.
Withdrawal coping strategies
Of course, the symptoms experienced by a football fan should not be nearly as severe as those experienced by a drug addict. Halaris compared the likely symptoms to those characteristic of the post-holiday blues.
Halaris offers several tips to make the process of football withdrawal less painful. First of all, hardcore fans should avoid cutting off their football activities "cold turkey," which could intensify the withdrawal effect. Halaris suggests watching recorded football games on TV or online, for example.
Scott Hagel, vice president of communications for the Chicago Bears, notes that some modern football teams already provide a wide array of multimedia content for fans.
"With the way technology has increased and the wireless speed has increased, you can watch videos on these phones and the user experience is taking off," Hagel said. "We spend a lot of our time creating content that allows people to consume video in a unique way through the Bears' assets. We want to make sure people's mobile experience is a good one."
Another coping strategy that some fans may use is transitioning into viewing another sport. For example, 22-year-old Moe Smith notes that while football plays a major role in his life during the season, when the season is over he simply shift his attention to basketball. However, this strategy may not be effective for everyone.
"I'll try to get into other sports, but when the football season comes back again, I forget about them," said 24-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers fan Daniel Slubberke. "I don't pay attention much in the off-season because there's not much to talk about."
In addition to easing off of football slowly, Halaris suggests making sure to find someone to share any feelings of letdown or withdrawal with, such as a spouse or friend.
He cautions against exaggerating the effects of football withdrawal; however, and warns dejected fans not to self-medicate. Fans should not need antidepressants.
"You're just going to have to basically tough it out until football starts up again," Halaris said.