Earlier this week, Dr. Pretlow gave an oral presentation in Haifa, Israel, at the 4th International Conference on Behavioral Addictions. The event is described as appealing to “research scientists, clinicians, social workers, health service managers and others.”
The goal is to gather information and insights from such specialties as genetic and neurobiological research, psychological and psychiatric approaches, epidemiology, sociology, and anthropology. Conference co-chairs Zsolt Demetrovics and Aviv Weinstein also publish the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.
ICBA 2017 subject matter covers an astonishing variety of human behaviors that display all the earmarks of addictions:
[…] especially disorders of the impulsive-compulsive spectrum, such as: gambling / internet / computer and video games / online gaming / pyromania / kleptomania / intermittent explosive disorder /trichotillomania / onychophagia / skin picking / compulsive buying / sexual behavior / compulsive hoarding / exercise dependence / obsessive-compulsive disorder / eating disorders / body dysmorphic disorder / muscle dysmorphic disorder / hypochondriasis / other excessive behaviors or non-substance addiction disorders / behavioral addictions in children/adolescents…
That is quite a list. Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are of particular interest to our readers.
Dr. Pretlow’s presentation was titled “Treatment of Obesity Using Behavioral Addiction Methods: a Pilot Study.” The background and foundation of these ideas can also be found in the pages of Childhood Obesity News. He begins by reaffirming a fact that has been unignorable for some time: New treatment strategies for obesity are urgently needed.
Uncontrollable overeating, in the forms of “comfort eating” and “nervous eating” bear a great resemblance to behavioral addictions. It makes sense that behavior addiction treatment methods can be useful in treating these problems.
Dr. Pretlow spoke about the four-month intervention implemented as the smartphone app known as W8Loss2Go. Childhood Obesity News has outlined the steps before: withdrawal from specific problem foods, withdrawal from snacking, and withdrawal from excessive meal portions at home.
One feature of this pilot study was the extensive solicitation of feedback. Questionnaires examining struggles and reasons for overeating were administered to parents and children at group meetings and in weekly, recorded phone interviews at baseline, program completion, and at the conclusion of the extension study.
The gathering of so much information proves to be very useful in understanding the reasons for overeating. The main reason given for overeating is rather shocking in a way, because boredom, in a world oversupplied with stimuli of all kinds, seems like the last problem anyone would encounter. In another way, it is encouraging, because techniques of distraction have a chance to prevail against boredom.
Pleasure seeking was the second most prevalent reason, which again is encouraging, because patients can have their horizons broadened and their possibilities multiplied, concerning alternate ways to find pleasure in life. Other causes of overeating include stress, sadness, and social pressures.
In many people’s minds, the conflict around eating versus not eating a certain food seems to be easily resolvable by deciding to go ahead and eat it. Fortunately, people can be re-educated to perceive the conflict as easily resolvable by deciding not to eat, for any but legitimate reasons.
The program was completed by 24 participants who lost an average 4.9 kg. Those who took part in the optional extension study lost on average an additional 2.6 kg. As expected, participants found it progressively easier to resist overeating. Dr. Pretlow and his team now see more clearly than ever that, for young people drifting into obesity, behavioral addiction treatments have great utility.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “4th International Conference on Behavioral Addictions,” icba.mat.org, February 2017
Image by Dr. Pretlow