What is your current activity level?
🧍‍♂️Sedentary
🚶 Moderately active
🏃 Very active
This will help us personalize your experience
Blog
>

ADHD and Eating Disorders: What’s the Connection?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • People with ADHD are more likely to experience disordered eating and eating disorders.
  • Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder.
  • Creating healthy eating habits can help to prevent disordered eating.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by difficulty concentrating and controlling impulses. It is one of the most common mental health disorders among children. 

Over the last decade, studies have found an association between ADHD and disordered eating

This article reviews the connection between ADHD and eating disorders and provides suggestions to help create healthy eating habits.

{{splash}}

The Connection Between ADHD and Eating Disorders

Research has recently started looking at the link between ADHD and eating disorders. People with ADHD may experience:

  • Inability to focus; short attention span; daydream.
  • A lack of Impulse control or difficulty resisting temptation.
  • Difficulty managing emotions.
  • Poor memory; forget or lose things often.
  • Are slow to start a task and rarely able to finish tasks.

The inability to focus, poor planning skills, and a lack of impulse control can make healthy eating challenging.  

A systematic review published in 2016 found a strong association between ADHD and disordered eating or eating disorders. Children with ADHD were at a greater risk for disordered eating; whereas, adolescents and adults were at risk for both disordered eating and eating disorders. 

Nourish offers individualized nutrition counseling and accepts most popular insurance carriers. If you suspect you have an eating disorder, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian. 

ADHD and Disordered Eating

A systematic review  found a positive association between ADHD symptoms and disordered eating.

A research study published in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that adult men who have been diagnosed with ADHD as children were twice as likely to struggle with disordered eating as adults as adults. Another review of the available research concluded that the current research supports a causal role of ADHD leading to weight gain later in life. 

The CDC has stated that anybody with a BMI >25 is at an increased risk for chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and different types of cancer. Addressing ADHD in childhood can help with disordered eating in adulthood

ADHD and Neurotransmitters

While the exact cause of ADHD isn’t known, some scientists believe that people who have ADHD may have too little dopamine in the brain or too much dopamine transporter which then lowers dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate a person's mood, attention, motivation, and movement. From a nutrition standpoint, a lack of dopamine in the brain can also contribute to:

Studies of eating patterns in children with and without ADHD found significant differences between the two groups. Children with ADHD were more likely to skip sit-down meals but still ate more than five times per day. Additionally, those with ADHD also consumed more sweetened beverages and fewer fruits and vegetables compared to those without ADHD. In another study, adolescents with ADHD consumed more snack foods than those without ADHD.

{{local}}

What Eating Disorders Commonly Occur with ADHD?

The most common eating disorder overall is binge eating disorder (BED). 

Binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa are both prevalent in people with ADHD as both of these eating disorders include impulsive decision-making surrounding food. BED is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating large amounts of food. Bulimia is also characterized by binge eating but includes purging by either self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or other methods.

Anorexia nervosa can occur in people with ADHD. Anorexia occurs when a person severely restricts caloric intake and loses body weight as a result. Anorexia can be life-threatening if it is not addressed. 

Creating Healthy Eating Habits with ADHD

If you've been diagnosed with ADHD, creating healthy eating habits will help avoid impulsive eating.

Practice mindful eating

Mindfulness helps you become more aware of internal factors that drive you to eat, rather than external cues. Mindful eating includes experiencing all parts of the meal by:

  • Having set locations for eating and avoiding distractions. 
  • Take the time to enjoy your meal; avoid rushing.
  • Highlight features of the meal by acknowledging flavors and textures.
  • Paying attention to your body's internal cues for feelings of fullness.

Planning where to eat at home can help to avoid or limit distractions. Eating while working, watching television, or playing video games is not recommended. These distractions can add to mindless eating.

Sitting at the table, taking time to enjoy your food, will help you to apply mindful eating practices.Focus on putting your fork down and taking sips of water in between bites or taking time to enjoy conversation with others. Eating at a slower pace will also allow you to listen to your fullness cues and experience a greater level of meal satisfaction.

Literature reviews support the use of mindfulness-based interventions to address poor eating habits, binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating.

Take Time for Meal Planning

Taking the time to plan meals in advance will help to ensure you have healthy food choices readily available. This will help to avoid impulsive decisions which can lead to unhealthy food choices.

Meal planning can be challenging for people with ADHD because it involves grocery shopping and following recipes with multiple steps. 

To help with grocery shopping, make sure to have a list of items and bring a pen to cross off the items after you have added them to the cart.

When cooking with a recipe, read through the entire directions before starting. It is helpful to have all of your ingredients prepped before starting to cook. This means vegetables are washed, peeled, chopped, or minced while other ingredients are measured per recipe instructions. Meats may also need to be marinated for a while before cooking. Having your ingredients ready to go will make cooking much easier.

Avoid skipping meals

People with ADHD may forget to eat a meal if they are distracted by other events. It is important to develop a habit of eating three meals a day and snacks if needed. Skipping meals can lead to overeating at the next meal.

Some people skip breakfast as their first meal of the day. Yet, eating a healthy breakfast can help improve attention in the morning and feelings of hunger at the next meal. Eating a healthy breakfast should include carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Without breakfast, you may feel even more hungry at lunch and possibly overeat later in the day

{{splash}}

Takeaway

People with ADHD are at greater risk of disordered eating and eating disorders. Creating healthy eating habits  is the key to both mental and physical health as it affects the way you feel and how your body works.

People with ADHD and disordered eating will benefit from therapy and individualized nutrition counseling. Treating ADHD may help you focus on developing healthy habits.

Seeking Help with Nourish

If ADHD is leading to poor food choices and disordered eating, nutrition counseling can help.. 

Nourish can help you find a Registered Dietitian to help you develop healthy eating habits. Take the next step in your health journey by booking a virtual appointment today. 

Find a dietitian near you to get started today for as little as $0—94% of our patients pay nothing out of pocket.

Frequently Asked Questions

References

View all references
Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish

  • Covered by insurance
  • Virtual sessions
  • Personalized care
Schedule an appointment

Frequently asked questions

No items found.

Find a virtual dietitian in {State}

Find a dietitian near you

Covered by insurance.
Question 1

Are you more thirsty than usual?

Question 1

Are you urinating more than usual?

Question 1

Is your blood sugar level consistently high?

Question 1

Do you experience extreme hunger or fatigue?

Question 1

Do you have blurry vision or numbness and tingling in your hands and feet?

Question 1

Do you experience frequent infections or slow-healing wounds?

Question 1

Do you have a family history of diabetes?

Your Result

Your results are in!

While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Your Result

Your results are in!

You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Test
OR
Oregon
38.547134, -122.816383
Charleston
SC
South Carolina
32.7884363, -79.9399309
Paterson
NJ
New Jersey
40.916611, -74.172188
Palmdale
CA
California
34.576469, -118.116096
Lancaster
CA
California
34.697472, -118.144524
Murfreesboro
TN
Tennessee
35.845619, -86.390266
Santa Rosa
CA
California
38.547134, -122.816383
Eugene
OR
Oregon
44.052151, -123.091187
Shreveport
LA
Louisiana
32.523659, -93.763504
Clarksville
TN
Tennessee
36.527279, -87.360336
Cary
NC
North Carolina
35.7882893, -78.7812081
Salem
OR
Oregon
44.944099, -123.040283
Newport News
VA
Virginia
37.087082, -76.473015
Chattanooga
TN
Tennessee
35.0457219, -85.3094883
Akron
OH
Ohio
41.0842496, -81.6777863
Providence
RI
Rhode Island
41.823990, -71.412834
Tallahassee
FL
Florida
30.438255, -84.280731
Peoria
AZ
Arizona
33.7528919, -112.4902079
Sioux Falls
SD
South Dakota
43.536388, -96.731667
Yonkers
NY
New York
40.930790, -73.898293
Fayetteville
NC
North Carolina
35.052666, -78.878357
Rochester
NY
New York
43.156578, -77.608849
McKinney
TX
Texas
33.214561, -96.614456
Moreno Valley
CA
California
33.920891, -117.261162
Fremont
CA
California
37.548271, -121.988571
Frisco
TX
Texas
33.150673, -96.823608
Spokane
WA
Washington
47.658779, -117.426048
Boise
ID
Idaho
43.6008183, -116.2421086
Port St. Lucie
FL
Florida
27.273270, -80.342148
Irving
TX
Texas
32.814018, -96.948891
Winston-Salem
NC
North Carolina
36.096260, -80.243736
St. Petersburg
FL
Florida
27.773056, -82.639999
Laredo
TX
Texas
27.507130, -99.507500
Jersey City
NJ
New Jersey
,
Buffalo
NY
New York
42.8867166, -78.8783922
St. Louis
MO
Missouri
38.627003, -90.199402
Chandler
AZ
Arizona
33.3062031, -111.841185
Durham
NC
North Carolina
35.994034, -78.898621
Lincoln
NE
Nebraska
40.806862, -96.681679
Pittsburgh
PA
Pennsylvania
40.440624, -79.995888
Greensboro
NC
North Carolina
36.072701, -79.793900
St. Paul
MN
Minnesota
44.954445, -93.091301
Newark
NJ
New Jersey
40.735657, -74.172363
Lexington
KY
Kentucky
38.040585, -84.503716
Stockton
CA
California
37.957703, -121.290779
Honolulu
HI
Hawaii
21.306944, -157.858337
Cleveland
OH
Ohio
41.499321, -81.694359
Arlington
TX
Texas
32.7355816, -97.1071186
Oakland
CA
California
37.804363, -122.271111
Long Beach
CA
California
33.770050, -118.193741
Raleigh
NC
North Carolina
35.779591, -78.638176
Omaha
NE
Nebraska
41.256538, -95.934502
Colorado Springs
CO
Colorado
38.833881, -104.821365
Fresno
CA
California
36.737797, -119.787125
Albuquerque
NM
New Mexico
35.084385, -106.650421
Memphis
TN
Tennessee
35.117500, -89.971107
Washington DC
WA DC
Washington, DC
38.889805, -77.009056
Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.169941, -115.139832
Seattle
WA
Washington
47.606209, -122.332069
Charlotte
NC
North Carolina
35.2272086, -80.8430827
Sacramento
CA
California
38.590576, -121.489906
Richmond
VA
Virginia
37.540726, -77.436050
Surprise
AZ
Arizona
33.629002, -112.330170
Mesa
AZ
Arizona
33.415184, -111.831474
Louisville
KY
Kentucky
38.252666, -85.758453
Des Moines
IA
Iowa
41.586834, -93.624962
Lakewood
CO
Colorado
39.704708, -105.081375
Kansas City
KS
Kansas
39.112701, -94.626801
Reno
NV
Nevada
39.529633, -119.813805
Tacoma
WA
Washington
47.258728, -122.465973
Aurora
CO
Colorado
39.7405111, -104.830994
Oxnard
CA
California
34.197659, -119.175949
Amarillo
TX
Texas
35.221996, -101.831299
Henderson
NV
Nevada
36.039524, -114.981720
Vancouver
WA
Washington
45.633331, -122.599998
Gilbert
AZ
Arizona
33.352825, -111.789024
San Bernardino
CA
California
34.115784, -117.302399
Columbus
GA
Georgia
27.800583, -97.396378
Hayward
CA
California
37.668819, -122.080795
Milwaukee
WI
Wisconsin
43.038902, -87.906471
Lubbock
TX
Texas
33.576698, -101.855072
Norfolk
VA
Virginia
36.850769, -76.285873
Tulsa
OK
Oklahoma
36.153980, -95.992775
Garland
TX
Texas
32.914341, -96.636559
Fort Lauderdale
FL
Florida
26.124161, -80.143593
Tucson
AZ
Arizona
32.248814, -110.987419
Salt Lake City
UT
Utah
40.760780, -111.891045
Corona
CA
California
33.875670, -117.568840
Madison
WI
Wisconsin
43.073051, -89.401230
Huntsville
AL
Alabama
34.7014286, -86.6597495
Kansas City
MO
Missouri
39.099728, -94.578568
Irvine
CA
California
33.684566, -117.826508
Chula Vista
CA
California
32.640072, -117.084038
Denton
TX
Texas
33.215530, -97.132446
Aurora
IL
Illinois
41.7571701, -88.3147539
Baton Rouge
LA
Louisiana
30.4494155, -91.1869659
Columbus
OH
Ohio
39.961178, -82.998795
Baltimore
MD
Maryland
39.2908816, -76.610759
Detroit
MI
Michigan
42.331429, -83.045753
Chesapeake
VA
Virginia
36.7183708, -76.2466798
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Birmingham
AL
Alabama
33.5206824, -86.8024326
Scottsdale
AZ
Arizona
33.501324, -111.925278
Cincinnati
OH
Ohio
39.103700, -84.513610
North Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.201946, -115.120216
Riverside
CA
California
33.980602, -117.375496
Plano
TX
Texas
33.019844, -96.698883
Minneapolis
MN
Minnesota
44.977753, -93.265015
Salinas
CA
California
,
Anaheim
CA
California
33.836594, -117.914299
Springfield
MO
Missouri
37.208958, -93.292297
Fort Wayne
IN
Indiana
41.077469, -85.137489
Phoenix
AZ
Arizona
33.448376, -112.074036
Bakersfield
CA
California
35.3738712, -119.0194639
Garden Grove
CA
California
33.774269, -117.937996
Anchorage
AK
Alaska
61.2163129, -149.894852
Indianapolis
IN
Indiana
39.768402, -86.158066
Nashville
TN
Tennessee
36.162663, -86.781601
Tempe
AZ
Arizona
33.425522, -111.941254
Mobile
AL
Alabama
30.695366, -88.039894
New Orleans
LA
Louisiana
29.951065, -90.071533
Knoxville
TN
Tennessee
35.960636, -83.920738
Grand Rapids
MI
Michigan
42.963360, -85.668083
Fontana
CA
California
34.102890, -117.435760
Elk Grove
CA
California
38.418129, -121.393257
Cape Coral
FL
Florida
26.5625742, -81.9438802
Grand Prairie
TX
Texas
32.745499, -97.003532
Fort Collins
CO
Colorado
40.588970, -105.082458
Killeen
TX
Texas
31.117119, -97.727798
Modesto
CA
California
37.639095, -120.996880
Oklahoma City
OK
Oklahoma
35.468491, -97.521263
Santa Ana
CA
California
33.745571, -117.867836
Ontario
CA
California
34.063343, -117.650887
Brownsville
TX
Texas
25.9015688, -97.4984005
Montgomery
AL
Alabama
32.379223, -86.307739
Hialeah
FL
Florida
25.857595, -80.278107
Springfield
MA
Massachusetts
42.102051, -72.585762
Toledo
OH
Ohio
41.652805, -83.537865
Pembroke Pines
FL
Florida
26.007765, -80.296257
Overland Park
KS
Kansas
38.974819, -94.683601
Little Rock
AR
Arkansas
34.746483, -92.289597
Glendale
CA
California
34.142509, -118.255074
Roseville
CA
California
38.752125, -121.288010
Wichita
KS
Kansas
37.687176, -97.330055
Huntington Beach
CA
California
33.659485, -117.998802
Augusta
GA
Georgia
33.4709714, -81.9748429
Worcester
MA
Massachusetts
42.271389, -71.798889
Virginia Beach
VA
Virginia
36.852924, -75.977982
Oceanside
CA
California
33.1958696, -117.3794834
Santa Clarita
CA
California
34.456043, -118.571335
Philadelphia
PA
Pennsylvania
39.952583, -75.165222
Corpus Christi
TX
Texas
27.800583, -97.396378
Portland
OR
Oregon
45.512230, -122.658722
Denver
CO
Colorado
39.739235, -104.990250
Boston
MA
Massachusetts
42.3554334, -71.060511
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Chicago
IL
Illinois
41.8755616, -87.6244212
Orlando
FL
Florida
28.538336, -81.379234
Jacksonville
FL
Florida
30.332184, -81.655647
Tampa
FL
Florida
27.950575, -82.457176
Long Island
NY
New York
40.757801, -73.940033
Queens
NY
New York
40.728226, -73.794853
Bronx
NY
New York
40.8466508, -73.8785937
Staten Island
NY
New York
40.643501, -74.076202
Brooklyn
NY
New York
40.6526006, -73.9497211
New York
NY
New York
40.712776, -74.005974
San Jose
CA
California
37.342205, -121.851990
San Francisco
CA
California
37.774929, -122.419418
San Diego
CA
California
32.834686, -117.130775
Los Angeles
CA
California
34.052235, -118.243683
El Paso
TX
Texas
31.761877, -106.485023
San Antonio
TX
Texas
29.387428, -98.496574
Dallas
TX
Texas
32.776665, -96.796989
Fort Worth
TX
Texas
32.755489, -97.330765
Houston
TX
Texas
29.760427, -95.369804
Austin
TX
Texas
30.2711286, -97.7436995

Book an appointment with a {category} dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Book an appointment with an online dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Find a

dietitian covered by insurance

No items found.
Disordered eating
Weight loss medication
Mental Health