Doctor says Seahawks fandom as addictive as drugs

Doctor says Seahawks fandom as addictive as drugs »Play Video
The 12th Man battled the cold, rain and wind, but were loud when needed and helped the Seattle Seahawks to a 23-15 win over the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks and 12th man will host the NFC Championship on Sunday January 19th. January 11th 2013. (Joshua Lewis / KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- When the Seahawks kick off against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, many of the 12th Man will transform themselves into rabid football fans complete with jerseys, hats, costumes and face paint.

That type of fandom isn't unusual in professional sports, but one doctor at the University of Washington suggests the fans may not be able to control their feelings.

Dr. David Coppel, a UW professor and neuropsychologist who also makes rounds at Children's Hospital and Harborview Medical Center, says "fandom" is real and can be as addictive as a drug at times.

And the more the Seahawks win, he says, the more prone fans may be to jumping on the bandwagon.

"You high-five the people you don't know and that's the commonality that you feel," Coppel said. "That's belongingness, that increases how they feel about themselves in a lot of cases."

According to Dr. Coppel, when fans feel a sense of euphoria and togetherness at a game or even at home, the chemicals in their brains change. He explains that's why fans refer to the Seahawks as "my team" when they're not actually playing the game on the field.

However, those same chemicals that can lead to extreme highs can also lead to extreme lows to the point of depression when the Seahawks lose. When the Seahawks are winning, he says, "fandom" is addictive.

"There's a fair amount of evidence that in anything that's elating there's a change in our brain chemistry and generally that's reinforcing an we want to have it again if we can," he said.