Loyola University Health System psychiatrist Dr. Angelos Halaris describes the effects this has on the brain and offers tips on how fans can cope.
Halaris explains that when a person engages in a pleasurable activity, such as watching a football game, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called dopamine is released in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.
When the pleasurable activity ends, the person is left with a feeling of deprivation. It’s similar to what a smoker feels when deprived of a cigarette — except there’s no quick fix like a cigarette for the football fan.
“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.
For hard-core fans, the feeling can be similar to post-holiday blues, Halaris said.
Halaris offers these tips for fans who suddenly have to face months without football:
Don’t go cold turkey. Watch football on YouTube, or on recordings, in gradually diminishing amounts.
Share your feelings of withdrawal and letdown with a friend or spouse.
While it can be unpleasant, football withdrawal is not serious enough to require antidepressants or other medications. And do not self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
Most important, buck up. “You’re just going to have to basically tough it out until football starts up again,” Halaris said.
Halaris is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and medical director of Adult Psychiatry at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 22 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.