ADHD and Eating Disorders

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • As children head back to school, parents of children with ADHD worry about academic performance, whether their children will make friends, how many times they may be called to the school office. But some experts believe adolescents and young adults (especially females) with ADHD may have an increased risk of eating disorders as well. Girls with ADHD are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, a contributing factor for many people with eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, to begin.


    Anorexia is an eating disorder in which people will starve themselves. Many people with anorexia are already thin, but see themselves as overweight. No matter what their weight, anorexics never believe they are "thin enough." They will severely restrict the number of calories consumed each day. Some will use exercise, diet pills or purging as an additional way to lose weight.

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    Bulimia is a cycle of binge eating and purging. Many people with bulimia will eat enormous amounts of food and then "purge" the extra calories by either vomiting, excessive exercising, fasting or using laxatives. Some use a combination of these methods to remain thin.


    Binge Eating is consistently and compulsively overeating. Someone could consume thousands of calories in a short amount of time. People that binge eat usually feel ashamed of their behavior but feel powerless to stop. Binge eating can be a way of self-medicating.


    Some common signs of an eating disorder:

    • Constant dieting, even when thin or underweight
      Always worried about body shape and size or weight
      Obsessed with food, nutrition and calories

    For anorexia or bulimia:

    • Using laxatives or diet pills
      Constantly exercising or talking about exercising
      Rapid weight loss (for no apparent reason)
      Avoiding eating, making excuses to not eat
      Using the bathroom immediately after meals

    For binge eating, warning signs can include:

    • Hoarding or hiding food, especially high-calorie food
      Weight gain without an apparent reason
      Eating alone or late at night, after others have gone to bed

    Treatment, including therapy, group therapy and nutritional counseling can help. For extreme cases, where severe malnourishment may be an issue, hospitalization and in-patient treatment may be needed.


    It can be hard to bring up the issue if you feel someone you know has an eating disorder, however, it is important to get this person help. Eating disorders are ways of coping with emotional pain. The person with the eating disorder is in pain and can benefit from help. Offer your support and understanding, but encourage the person to seek professional help.





Published On: August 17, 2009