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 her to an eating disorder like bulimia, binge eating disorder or anorexia, she is at risk. That risk is amplified or may be decreased if the environment in which she lives is fulfilling.

It’s an interesting concept to consider as you set up treatment for your child with an eating disorder. Help her find healthy ways to seek the connection and love she craves, help her avoid loneliness, and she may thrive.

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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


Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Ginny is also a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.