For anyone whose go-to stress response is eating, times of enforced isolation and heightened anxiety are particularly bad times. This seems to be the case whether eating is a chemical addiction or a behavioral addiction. In addition to all the other problems inherent in the pandemic, to prevent their children from eating constantly, parents were called upon to devise means of capturing their attention and filling their time.
The rogue displacement mechanism of overeating can be overcome by distractions, but distraction only works if the subject is interested in the distractor. This piece addresses the triple threat of depression, boredom, and eatertainment when kids are required to spend too much time at home.
Displacement activity occurs in many forms, of which eating is one. But what happens when there just isn’t any food? This was the situation faced by many parents at the height of the pandemic. Dr. Pretlow says,
Displacement activity is an innate, hard-wired, instinctual, automatic biobehavioral mechanism… Displacement activity is rechanneling of overflow energy from conflicted or thwarted drives into another drive.
Dr. Pretlow explains how displacement, or rechanneling overflow brain energy to another drive (feeding) unbalances the equilibrium between two other opposing drives, and how this can resolve a stressful situation at the moment. Of course, it sets up another threatening situation in slow motion, creating obesity that will in turn become a stressful situation
This post looked at Niko Tinbergen’s ideas on displacement theories, and how other experts questioned his methods and conclusions.
This post examines the idea that it is not food that causes overeating, but the life situations the person is facing. It introduces Carly Hurt, the young woman who has played such a big part in the advancement of Dr. Pretlow’s work with adolescents.
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Image by Julija Rauluševičiūtė/CC BY 2.0