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Rat Park – could solving for loneliness heal our kids of addictions and eating disorders?

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses. They are not the same as addiction, however, there are similarities. In both situations, people suffering from the disorders are seeking an emotionally stable state by chasing their disordered behavior.

The story of Rat Park is one in which we learn that rats who are put alone in a cage and offered drugs will take the drugs until they die. But since rats are social creatures, when the rats are put in a social environment and given the choice of drugs, they don’t become addicts.

The idea is that addictive behaviors can be impacted by the environment. If your child has an underlying brain condition that predisposes them to an eating disorder like bulimia, binge eating disorder or anorexia, they are at risk. That risk is amplified or may be decreased by the environment in which they live.

Emotions and eating disorders are linked, which is an interesting concept to consider as you set up treatment for your child with an eating disorder. Help them find healthy ways to seek the connection and love they crave, help them avoid loneliness, and they may thrive.

This article and video were inspired by an article written by Johann Hari in the Huffington Post. You can see his article here: The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Ginny Jones is on a mission to change the conversation about eating disorders and empower people to recover.  She’s the founder of, an online resource supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders, and a Parent Coach who helps parents supercharge their kid’s eating disorder recovery.

Ginny has been researching and writing about eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

Ginny’s most recent project is Recovery, a newsletter for deeply feeling people in recovery from diet culture, negative body image, and eating disorders.

See Our Guide to Emotions And Eating Disorders

3 thoughts on “Rat Park – could solving for loneliness heal our kids of addictions and eating disorders?

  1. Hello, I’m writing a novel that includes the concept of Rat Park. I would like to use a still from your video as the cover. Do you own the rights to the video? If so I’d like your permission to use a still. Thanks, Ron

  2. […] uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Eating disorders are developed to avoid feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety and depression. Alcohol serves a very similar purpose for people: when a person is drunk, […]

  3. […] and where you value others as well,” says Smith. Those of us who have eating disorders, like those who struggle with addictions, tend to feel a lack of belonging. We feel adrift in the sea of humanity, and question our role and […]

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