ADHD And Binge Eating Disorder

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The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) describes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an inability to control impulsive behaviors, difficulty focusing and/ or paying attention, and/ or being overly active. It is also noted as one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. Some of common examples, as provided by the Mayo Clinic, of symptoms that an adult individual with ADHD may exhibit include any combination of the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Poor planning
  • Disorganization 
  • Inefficient time management skills
  • Trouble with multitasking
  • Impatience 
  • Lacks effective coping mechanisms for stress management
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsiveness 
  • Problems with following through and completing tasks.

The symptoms that an individual with ADHD experience are persistent, disruptive, and perpetually interfere in one’s ability carryout the tasks needed to function in his or her daily life. While the cause for developing ADHD remains unclear, research has indicated that genetic factors, environmental factors and developmental delays may all contribute to its potential development.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder, also known as BED, falls under the larger umbrella that covers all eating disorders (ED). BED a type of eating disorder that is characterized by uncontrolled consumption of large amounts of food over a short period of time, even in situations where the individual is not hungry. It is common for the overconsumption of food to result in a fleeting sense of release, but is typically followed by feelings of shame, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). A healthcare professional diagnoses BED when three or more of the following symptoms present regularly in an individual:

  1. Rapid eating
  2. Eating excessive amounts of food when not hungry
  3. Eating until uncomfortably full
  4. Low self esteem: feelings of guilt or disgust with oneself
  5. Isolating oneself while eating to avoid feelings of shame and/ or embarrassment 

Individuals struggling with BED commonly experience distress about their overeating, weight, and body shape. While the causes for developing BED remain unknown, there are a variety of risk factors that are said to contribute to an individual’s susceptibility for developing BED. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) provides the following as risk factors for developing BED:

  • Biological: 
    • Genetics 
    • Family history of ED and/ or mental health conditions
    • Personal health history
    • Presence of comorbid disorders/ other preexisting conditions 
  • Psychological:
    • Personality tendencies (i.e. perfectionism, behavior inflexibility…etc.)
    • Emotional trauma
    • Self-perception (i.e. comfort with one’s body size, weight, body image…etc.)
  • Social:
    • Target of bullying and/ or teasing
    • Minimal social network (i.e. lack of friends)
    • Cultural weight stigma/ pressures
    • Trans generational/ historical trauma 

The above risk factors are not exclusive to BED, but rather encompass risk factors relating to the development of any ED. For an individual with BED, a binge-eating episode may be triggered as a result of stress, dieting, or any number of reasons. Every individual is unique therefore the range of sociocultural, biological and psychological risk factors may interact differently in different people. 

Overlap of ADHD & BED

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating disorders (ED), including binge eating disorder (BED), are directly connected. Both ADHD and BED are considered psychiatric disorders. According to Duke University, nearly thirty percent of individuals with BED also have a history of ADHD. There is significant overlap in the commonly presented symptoms of ADHD and BED. For example, an individual with ADHD may make impulsive food choices, paired with an inability to pick up on one’s food satiety signals, can result in habitually overeating and lead to BED. Furthermore, one article in U.S. News and World Report claims that some of the classic symptoms of ADHD (i.e. inability to plan well and impulsivity) may contribute to perpetuating an individual’s BED. While links between binge eating disorder and ADHD can be attributed to a variety of factors, research has indicated that several characteristics of ADHD have been shown to influence some of the disordered eating behaviors presented in BED. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-318-3777.

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