ADHD and Eating Disorders

ADHD and Eating DisordersAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects many children and adults. The cause of ADHD is unknown, but researchers have determined a few contributing factors such as the following:

  • Heredity
  • Chemical imbalance of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters)
  • Brain changes
  • Head injury

The symptoms of ADHD generally include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. People with ADHD have trouble concentrating or paying attention. They become bored easily or find it difficult to follow directions or finish tasks. Hyperactivity causes them to move constantly and can be described as restlessness. Children or adults with ADHD act out of impulse and often forget to think before they act. Many people think ADHD is a mild condition capable of producing little effect, but this is untrue. The severity of ADHD can lead to a number of disruptive problems for those diagnosed with it, and these problems can include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty controlling emotions, especially anger
  • Depression
  • Boredom and the feeling of malcontent
  • Relationship problems

Psychological Factors of ADHD and Co-occurring Eating Disorders

Living with ADHD can be both physically and psychologically exhausting, and it is not uncommon to find co-occurring disorders in patients with ADHD. Many people with ADHD also have a co-occurring eating disorder caused by related mental health issues. Individuals with ADHD are likely to develop psychological problems, especially if their diagnosis is not treated. ADHD can lead to the following:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional negativity
  • Depression
  • Multiple personality disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

These neurological problems are commonly linked with eating disorders. These problems often overlap and exacerbate one another, and this can make it difficult to diagnose the actual root of the problem.

Why Is Food a Form of Self-Medication for ADHD?

To ease the frustrations and cope with the pain of ADHD, people may result to forms of self-medication. Self-medication is the use of substances or behaviors to change the way one feels. This can include drug use, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping or food. The compulsive act of using food to treat the symptoms of ADHD can lead to a number of serious eating disorders and complications. There are a number of reasons why food and food-related behaviors are used for self-medication, and these reasons include the following:

  • Eating can temporarily calm and alleviate a person’s symptoms of restlessness and hyperactivity by means of distraction.
  • Food can increase the levels of serotonin which improve the symptoms of depression. Serotonin can help regulate sleep, mood, impulses, appetite and sexual energy.
  • Planning a binge can provide a person with a rush and stimulation. Lack of impulse control related to ADHD can lead to binge and purge exercises.
  • An eating disorder can give a person the feeling of control. By controlling his or her eating habits a person with ADHD can feel control over life and actions. Obsessing over food, exercise and thinness gives people with ADHD a way to focus their chaotic mind.
  • Obsessing over food can either distract or temporarily help a person cope with the mental and emotional pain caused by ADHD. Focusing on eating habits can be easier than suffering from emotional or psychological pain related to ADHD.

Are You Struggling with the Psychological Symptoms of ADHD?

If you are struggling with psychological or emotional pain because of ADHD or eating disorders, there is help. You may want to learn more about your behaviors and why you need help. Please call our toll-free helpline to speak with one of our highly trained recovery counselors who can help you find the peace you are seeking. We are here 24 hours a day to answer any questions or talk with you about concerns you many have.