ADHD and eating disorders

According to experts, people with ADHD may overeat in order to meet their brain's stimulation needs. Self-control and self-regulation can also be hampered by executive function issues. Inattention may also have a role. ADHD patients may be less aware of or focused on their eating habits.

ADHD and Eating Disorders: Is There a Link?

In the existing evidence, ADHD symptoms and dysregulated eating practices are typically linked. The prevalence of eating disorders in ADHD samples has been reported to range from 5 to 17 percent, whereas the prevalence of ADHD symptoms in eating disorder patients has been found to range from 5 to 17 percent. Children with ADHD-combined type had more BN-type eating pathology at follow-up than children without ADHD, according to a 5-year prospective study, with impulsivity being the biggest predictor of eating disorder behavior assessed. A second study found that 9% of bulimic inpatients had concomitant ADHD, indicating that ADHD is more common in this eating disorder. Finally, in adult clinical samples with BN and AN-P, increased childhood histories of ADHD have been documented.

Impulsivity and inattention have been linked to the development of BN. In one study, girls with ADHD were 3.6 times more likely than girls without ADHD to have any eating disorder, and 5.6 times more likely to have BN specifically. Children (boys and girls) had an elevated risk of BN symptoms (relative to a control group) in a prospective follow-up of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD, and early impulsivity predicted BN symptom emergence in adolescence 8 years later. Although those with clinical ADHD are more likely to have eating disorder symptoms (binge/purge and restrictive), those with subclinical ADHD are only more likely to have bingeing and/or purging behaviors, according to a recent secondary data analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (but not restrictive behaviors) Although another study using self-report measures found no link between BN and ADHD in adult women, the study's small sample size (n=32) suggests that it was underpowered to show a link between the two disorders.

These findings imply that binge-eating/purging behaviors (such as in BN or AN-P) are associated with a higher risk of ADHD than restricting behaviors alone in those with eating disorder symptomatology. Additional research comparing the rates of ADHD phenomenology in AN of the purging subtype against the limiting subtype would confirm this idea and help to elucidate underlying mechanisms.

ADHD and Obesity: Is There a Link?

Adults and children with ADHD have been found to have a considerably higher risk of developing obesity in epidemiologic and clinical investigations. Overweight/obese people, on the other hand, have been proven to have a higher risk of developing ADHD. One study indicated that 25% of obese people seeking treatment fit ADHD criteria, with a greater frequency among the most obese. According to research, up to 50% of juveniles treated for obesity had ADHD, while 20% of youths treated for ADHD were overweight. A major epidemiologic investigation confirmed these findings, reporting that children who were not given stimulants were 1.5 times more likely to be overweight, whereas children who were given stimulants were 1.6 times more likely to be underweight (compared to children who did not have these diagnoses) [17]. Obesity is associated with ADHD, as evidenced by a 33-year follow-up study of males with ADHD who were 2 times more likely to be obese than controls at follow-up. Overweight, BN, and binge-eating behavior all occur more frequently than expected in people with ADHD, according to the literature. We also have strong evidence that BED and LOC eating are linked to weight gain in both children and adults.

ADHD and Binge Eating Disorder: Is There a Link?

Given the links between ADHD and obesity, as well as obesity and binge behavior, it's reasonable to wonder if ADHD and binge eating disorder are linked. Most early studies of the past decade that looked at the link between bingeing and ADHD didn't include BED, owing to the fact that it was still a research diagnosis in DSM-4 at the time. However, one early study of BED discovered that it was usually associated with ADHD, and ADHD has been linked to lack of control eating. ADHD was linked to binge eating and emotional eating in a variety of non-clinical samples, including a community sample research and a large epidemiological investigation that found a link between subclinical ADHD and binge-eating disorder behaviors. Another epidemiologic investigation discovered that binge eating may have influenced the link between ADHD and adult weight. One hypothesised mechanism impacting the link between BED and ADHD is impulsivity (as discussed below). Despite the fact that another study found a link between ADHD symptoms and binge eating and some measures of impulsivity, they did not find that impulsivity moderated the relationship between ADHD and BED.