Eating Disorders

The ADHD-Eating Disorders: What’s The Link?

If you have ADHD, you are also at risk of developing an eating disorder. Learn why feelings of inadequacy can lead to eating problems, and how counseling or medication can help you get back on track.

Is there a connection between ADHD and Eating Disorders?

In a brief, sure. ADHD and eating disorders may have a connection. The relationship is the result of several variables. For starters, ADHD symptoms can make it difficult to plan nutritious, filling meals. As a result, those with ADHD are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Eating Disorders and ADHD

Many children and teenagers with ADHD develop food aversions as a result of sensory processing difficulties or sensitivities that impair their eating patterns. For example, they may like to eat just certain meals with specific textures or flavors.

The majority of research linking ADHD and diagnosable eating disorders focuses on bingeing behaviors, which are present in bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and a variant of anorexia nervosa that includes bingeing and purging symptoms. The research that focused on the association between ADHD and eating disorders discovered that the primary symptoms of ADHD—inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—occur often in patients with eating disorders. Furthermore, researchers discovered that the intensity of ADHD symptoms is often related to the severity of eating problem symptoms. 

Anorexia Nervosa 

Anorexia nervosa has numerous subtypes, some of which entail purging or binge-purging behaviors. There appears to be a link between ADHD and a binge-purge form of anorexia nervosa, but not between ADHD and the food-restrictive kind of anorexia, as with other types of binge-purge eating behavior. ¹

Nervosa Bulimia

The inattentive form of ADHD is most strongly connected with bulimia symptoms. ADHD and bulimia have executive function deficiencies, poor emotional regulation, and mood problems, which help explain the link between the two conditions. ⁷

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder, along with bulimia nervosa, is the most frequent eating disorder in both people with ADHD and the general population. The disease also contributes to the development of obesity and overweight. Both binge eating disorder and ADHD symptoms of disrupted eating/feeding are founded on an inability to control impulsive behavior.

Eating Disorders Quiz

This brief, time-saving quiz is intended for anyone who suspects they may have an eating disorder.

The items listed below will assist you in determining whether you may require further assistance to navigate a condition…..

Why Are People with ADHD At Risk for Eating Disorders?

A lot of evidence points to a link between ADHD and eating issues. Among them are the following:

The Reward System of the Brain

A study found that images of food triggered the brain’s reward center at a higher degree in people with ADHD than in people who were not diagnosed with ADHD. Furthermore, the researchers discovered that having ADHD may raise the likelihood of developing an eating issue due to this brain response.

Processing of Sensations

ADHD is frequently related to irregularities in how the brain processes information and cues from the rest of the body. In people with ADHD, for example, hunger cues become distorted. This can make it difficult to know when to stop eating or, conversely, to have no appetite.

Food sensitivities

Many persons with ADHD are extraordinarily sensitive; this sensitivity is known as hypersensitivity. Hypersensitivity is defined as being very sensitive to physical sensations such as smell, taste, touch, or even the surrounding environment.

As a result, a hypersensitive person with ADHD may have greater difficulty consuming particular foods than someone who does not have ADHD. This can lead to eating restrictions. On the contrary, hypersensitivities can make a person with ADHD hypersensitive to foods that they believe taste excellent. This puts them in danger of binge eating.

Pic: Eating Disorders

Treatments for ADHD

ADHD might be the root cause of eating disorder behaviors in some cases. As a result, treatment for ADHD can aid in the relief of symptoms associated with an eating issue. ADHD is treated using a variety of approaches, including:

  • Medicine
  • Therapy
  • Nutrition 
  • Social skill improvement

Professional care is essential for treating ADHD; an ADHD specialist can establish which symptoms are attributable to ADHD and which are related to the eating issue. This is critical for developing effective treatment techniques.