ADHD and Eating Disorders: The Real Connection between the Two

February 7, 2022 1
ADHD and Eating Disorders Treatment
ADHD Disorder
ADHD and Eating Disorders: The Real Connection between the Two

While people have recognized eating disorders for ages, the understanding of ADHD is somewhat relatively poor. In a nutshell, ADHD is characterized by reduced executive functioning, inattention, and impulsiveness. Patients with ADHD may also be hyperactive.

If you know someone with ADHD and an eating disorder, you might assume the two are unrelated. Nevertheless, ADHD and eating disorders can co-occur, as shown in several studies. Read more below to learn about the connection between ADHD and eating disorders and what can be done about it.

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ADHD and Binge Eating Disorder

The three main types of eating disorders include bulimia, binge eating disorder {BED} and anorexia. Other than BED being the most common of the three, it is the one that often co-occurs with ADHD. In BED, a patient eats large food amounts quickly even when they feel full. Unlike bulimia, the person will neither purge nor excessively exercise to get rid of this food after eating. Nonetheless, he/ she will be ashamed afterward. Obesity usually occurs with co-occurring ADHD and binge eating disorders. According to researchers, the impulsivity and inattention associated with ADHD are the key elements that play a role in BED development. The brains of people with ADHD need stimulation. Binge eating might be a way of meeting this stimulation. Furthermore, research has identified a genetic link between ADHD and eating disorders. There are common genes identified in BED, obesity, and ADHD. These genes involved in dopamine transmission are not very efficient in people with ADHD. The inattention associated with ADHD might lead someone to be unaware of his/ her eating habits or might not recognize whether he/ she is hungry. He/ she might also not recognize when he/ she is full and thus keeps eating.

ADHD and Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa entails restricting your food intake, at times to almost starving point. This leads to unhealthily low body weight as the person is scared of gaining weight and body fat. You might be asking why girls with ADHD have anorexia commonly. Though not as common as BED and bulimia in ADHD and eating disorders, anorexia in ADHD is thought to be associated with the impaired interpretation of signals in the brain, causing abnormal behaviors. As such, one might be unable to recognize if he/ she is hungry and under-eat or develop food aversions.

Eating Disorders

Moreover, some people with ADHD might be more sensitive to textures, flavors, foods, stimuli, and scents compared to the general population. Therefore, they might not readily accept most foods, which contribute to anorexia. Alternatively, a person with ADHD might find it overwhelming to process the information on healthy food choices and portions. Hence, they might choose to take an ‘’all or nothing’’ approach in which they eat everything or nothing to ease decision-making.

ADHD and Bulimia

With the poor impulse control that people with ADHD have, restricting what they eat might be an issue. To keep themselves from feeling guilty after bingeing on food, some develop bulimia, a condition in which they purge or exercise excessively to get rid of the food they have eaten.

In ADHD bulimia, food is considered self-medication for anger, stress, boredom, and anxiety. The food fills the emotional gap that the person feels and becomes his/ her source of comfort. Binge eaters and those with ADHD have issues paying attention to their internal cues on hunger and satiety.

Management of ADHD and Eating Disorders

The treatment of eating disorders is complicated, especially when dealing with ADHD. Treating an eating disorder with consideration of ADHD is essential. Knowing the effect of ADHD on an eating disorder and the effect of the eating disorder on ADHD is key to successful treatment. Management of ADHD and eating disorders requires a team comprising nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and physicians. Below are some of the approaches for ADHD and eating disorders treatments:

  • Eat Healthily: Practice eating healthy by setting time for meal plans detailing what and how much you will eat. You can help someone with ADHD by portioning the foods for them to make the task less overwhelming.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: CBT is another option to address the distorted views, unhealthy behaviors, and negative thinking associated with ADHD. The person with ADHD can also learn accountability and healthy ways of coping with discomfort to avoid overeating.
  • Talk Therapy: Traditional talk therapy can help, but often in combination with CBT.
  • Stimulant Medications: Stimulants are generally the first-line medications for ADHD and eating disorders. They can improve self-control, promote impulse control and reduce appetite to prevent binge eating. Since stimulant medication may help diminish the urge to overeat, they are not used to manage anorexia. The first medication permitted by the FDA for BED treatment is Vyvanse.
  • SSRIs: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors have been beneficial in treating bulimia. These drugs ease the mood, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and anxiety, thus controlling binge eating.


ADHD is sometimes the root cause of some eating disorders. You now understand the connection between ADHD and eating disorders with the above information. These eating disorders are serious medical conditions that can lead to heart issues, extreme malnutrition, and lifestyle diseases. To successfully manage ADHD and eating disorders, you need a professional well-versed in both conditions.

The experts at Mango Clinic can help you with ADHD and eating disorders. They take an all-around approach when addressing your symptoms and consider your lifestyle to ensure the management is customized to your needs. Contact us today for a customized management plan for ADHD and eating disorders or click the banner below to book your appointment.

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One comment

  • ADHD and Eating Disorders: The Real Connection between the Two
    Quality Proxies

    June 8, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    I believe that avoiding prepared foods could be the first step to help lose weight. They will often taste beneficial, but processed foods have very little nutritional value, making you feed on more in order to have enough energy to get through the day. If you’re constantly ingesting these foods, converting to grain and other complex carbohydrates will help you have more power while ingesting less. Good blog post.


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