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. She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.