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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.

It’s 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


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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

  1. […] blood pressure, high blood pressure, it even suppresses your immune system. Studies have shown that rats avoid dangerous addictions if they are put in an environment that builds social connection vs. loneliness. Find ways to […]

  2. […] all human beings thrive in social settings that drive a sense of community and belonging. Since your child has likely been feeling “weird” for most of her life, find ways to […]

  3. […] If we only focus on our children’s eating disorders, and lose sight of our own needs, our children will not heal. Even during the process of eating disorder recovery, we need to pay attention to our own needs as mothers, women and daughters. We need to avoid isolation more than ever and gain the support we need. Isolation works against us – it leads to mental illness, addiction, and physical illness. […]

  4. 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

  5. […] 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, […]

  6. […] 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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