Incentives and Excessive Appetites

Posted By William Dubin, Ph.D. on April 17, 2011 at 11:08am | General

The PIG (the Problem of Immediate Gratification) is a defining feature of incentive use disorders.  Individuals suffering the negative consequences of their excessive appetites want immediate gratification of the desire to be free of their problem. 

Over-eaters want quick weight loss.  Sadly, weight loss is not a cure for obesity!  The vast majority of the participants of diets and weight loss programs will weigh more a year later than they did when they began their program. One- and two-year outcome research for substance abuse, gambling, and other addictive disorders shows similar patterns of short-term behavior change—while the individual is under the influence of the program—followed by an increasing likelihood of relapse with time from program completion, typically reaching around 80% within the first year after treatment.  

There is no external salvation from dependence on an external agent. To the extent an external agent—a treatment provider, program, support group–was responsible for the behavioral control, relapse is likely when the salience of the external source of control diminishes with time. 

An alternative to admitting powerlessness over a disease and turning responsibility for outcome over to an external agent is to admit you have freewill and accept the responsibility to develop the faculties required to act as you intend despite the influence of local conditions.

Volition is a controversial topic and many people believe that willpower is a destructive illusion.  Most everyone with an excessive appetite has tried what they call willpower—”white knuckling it”—without success.  However, if willpower is defined as acting as intended despite the influence of local conditions, then the term describes a faculty worth developing.

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Posted by William Dubin, Ph.D.

Bill received his doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa. He has dedicated his career to the study of mood and addictive disorders and how to escape them.

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