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For political junkies, now is the withdrawal

(Credit: Politirazzi)

Does your living room look like this? (AP)

By Jason Fink

For those New Yorkers whose ideal Friday night date has become MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and her wry smirk, or were riveted when John King worked his magic on CNN’s slick wall-mounted electoral map, the end of the election means one thing: Campaign withdrawal.

Though millions across the city cheered and danced in the streets after Barack Obama won the presidency, an undercurrent of anxiety permeated the excitement. After all, the presidential campaign that began more than a year ago and has since dominated cable news and the blogosphere virtually 24/7 is now over.

“It’s kind of taken over my life,” said William Harvey, 25, of Washington Heights. “There will be withdrawal. I’m kind of addicted to it.”

Harvey, a violinist and staunch Obama supporter, said during the long campaign season he spent two to four hours a day reading political coverage on the Internet. He conceded the end of the election will free up more time to practice his instrument but said it might negatively impact his social life.

“There are some people who I won’t know what to talk about with,” he said.

Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, said such obsessions stimulate the pleasure-reward pathways in the brain, working in a similar way to drugs or alcohol.“There’s no question that someone can develop a strong habit in following these political campaigns,” Levounis said. “And when the campaign is over, they get a sense of emptiness, or a letdown, something missing in their lives.”

He said doctors had seen similar reactions to TV shows such as “American Idol.”

Max Alvarez, 38, an Upper West Side resident, began the long campaign season last year as a supporter of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the Democratic primaries. When Richardson dropped out, he switched to Hillary Clinton and then, last week, knocked on doors in Pennsylvania for Obama.

“The day after (the election), I think I’m going to sleep,” Alvarez said last night during a rally in Harlem for Obama. “After that, I guess I’ll have to find something else to talk about, something else to update my Facebook page with.”

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