Avoid Planting the Seeds of Addiction

The previous post left off by observing that an occupational passion, a creative obsession, or even a spiritual calling can, on the practical level, resemble an addiction when its requirements do not match up with what someone else believes is the most appropriate use of that person’s life. While growing up, some people need to try out different types of activities and experiment a bit to discover their interests. On the other hand, some know at the age of five what they “want to be when they grow up” and proceed, if allowed, in an unwavering course along that path.

This brings up another point. When a young person is absorbed in art or music, or even in rebuilding vintage cars, and the grownups actively discourage the enthusiasm, that negative dynamic provides a fertile ground for addiction to grow. It would be inaccurate to call this a thought process, but there is an emotional reasoning process (not the best kind) that goes something like this: “If I can’t do what I want, and what matters to me, how about if I just do nothing, and see how you like that?”

Next thing you know, the kid is hooked on downers and failing in every available direction. In other words, one of the best ways to cure addiction in a young person is to prevent it from ever happening, and one of the best ways to do that is to help and allow the kid to figure out what he is good at; what she enjoys doing; what he gets a thrill from accomplishing; what she is intellectually stimulated by.

Roots of addiction

Many people overdrink, overdrug, or overeat as a way of dealing with their other problems, and of course becoming an alcohol, drug or food addict is a fake cure that brings plenty of additional (and worse) problems into the person’s life. But is every use of the displacement mechanism a fake cure? Not if it saves the person from destruction, and helps them to avoid visiting various kinds of destruction on the people close to them.

Which is exactly what has happened to the people whose lives have been changed by flyfishing and by getting actively involved with all the peripheral details and underlying causes connected with that activity, like saving the world’s rivers from death by unrelenting pollution.

What if every kid who is hooked on cigarettes or beer or whatever, could find a positive and productive displacement activity? It might not directly solve their immediate problems, but could very well provide the first few steps of the grand stairway that leads them out of the life that contains those problems.

Dr. Pretlow wrote in “The displacement mechanism: a new explanation and treatment for obesity,”

Moving the opposing drives out of equilibrium, by resolving a person’s problems (displacement sources), theoretically should halt the displacement mechanism and might comprise an intervention for overeating/obesity, as well as other addictions. If the individual can either face or escape from the problematic situations, the displacement behavior of overeating should stop on its own without struggling and without willpower.

It is possible that the young person in the illustration on this page was destined by family tradition to be not a track star, but a teacher. And maybe that will happen someday. But meanwhile, we know for sure that we’re not looking at a person addicted to eating. Being allowed to discover a passion and follow it can undoubtedly help a young person to face problematic situations, by discovering strengths, and can even help her or him to escape from the problematic situations. This is something that parents might want to take under serious consideration.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Steve Pisano/CC BY 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources