ADHD Symptoms Can Go With Both Binge Eating and Restrictive Eating

ADHD symptoms have a direct relationship with disordered eating behaviors including binge eating and restrictive eating, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

In the study, researchers in the United Kingdom looked at whether people with ADHD tend to engage in both disinhibited (binge) eating on one hand, and restrictive eating on the other – as well as why this might be the case. They did so by surveying 237 adults between the ages of 18 and 32, 80 percent of whom were women.

As it turned out, ADHD symptoms were associated with both binge eating and restrictive eating, and the researchers uncovered several mechanisms at work behind this correlation.

For one thing, people with higher levels of ADHD symptoms tended to have higher levels of negative mood, which put them at risk for these eating behaviors. They were also less aware and less dependent on bodily feelings of hunger and fullness in determining their eating behaviors.

In addition to these factors, though, the researchers also found that there was a direct relationship between inattentive ADHD symptoms and disordered eating. That is, people’s level of inattentive symptoms predicted their tendency toward disordered eating, and this link couldn’t be explained entirely by other factors such as mood and awareness of bodily signals.

The relationship was especially strong between ADHD symptoms and binge eating. In other words, people with ADHD are at higher risk for disordered eating for a number of reasons, including negative mood – but ADHD symptoms specifically put people at higher risk for disordered eating too, and this is especially true for disinhibited eating.

According to the researchers, the main takeaway from the study is the “evidence that core symptoms of ADHD are associated with both binge/disinhibited eating and restrictive eating behavior.” Additional research on this topic, they point out, could lead to better treatments both for ADHD and for disordered eating.

Image: Flickr/Darren Tunnicliff