ADHD and Eating Disorders (Binge Eating Disorder)

Yes, unfortunately  ADHD frequently co- exists with other challenges such as Eating Disorders, mostly a Binge Eating Disorder.  

“According to Kooij and colleagues (2019), 60–80% of individuals with ADHD show life-time comorbidities such as anxiety disorder (34%), mood disorder (22%), behavioral disorder (15%) and substance use disorders (11%). One of the most prevalent medical comorbidities is obesity; meta-analytic evidence indicates a 70% increased risk of obesity in adults with ADHD compared to those without ADHD [7,8]. ADHD has also been found to be significantly associated with eating disorders (EDs) (i.e., anorexia nervosa [AN], bulimia nervosa [BN], and binge eating disorder [BED]) [9]. In addition, ADHD is associated more generally with addictive-like eating behavior, even when no ED is diagnosed, notably loss of control overeating [10], binge eating (i.e., recurrent consumption of unusually large amounts of food during a discrete period of time while experiencing loss of control over food intake), and food addiction (FA) (i.e., addictive-like eating behaviors in relation to specific foods high in fat and/or refined carbohydrates, including craving, loss of control overeating, harm related to the behavior, and maintenance of the behavior despite negative consequences) [11,12,13].

Source: Negative Affectivity and Emotion Dysregulation as Mediators between ADHD and Disordered Eating: A Systematic Review https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/11/3292

This is consistant with my clinical experience. Rarely I see clients who do not have more than 1 issue to address. 

So how are Eating Disorders linked to ADHD? 

Main shared features include: 

  1. Difficulties with emotional regulation which often  can result in using food to regulate emotions 
  2. Difficulties with interoception
  3. Dopamine: reward pathways are implicated in both ADHD and disordered eating. In ADHD, disruption of the dopaminergic system involves impulse control deficits, inattention and reward sensitivity. These features increase the risk of resorting to food, and even of FA, with palatable food seen as a natural reward [140].
  4. Executive functioning challenges – being inattentive, and disorganised ( BED and BN)