Home » ADHD » Adult Eating Disorder + ADHD = Clinical Challenges

Adult Eating Disorder + ADHD = Clinical Challenges

Adult Eating Disorder + ADHD = Clinical Challenges A new European study finds that impulsivity combined with an eating disorder is a complex condition and one that often has a poor prognosis.

Researchers followed 191 patients and discovered that symptoms of hyperactivity due to attention and hyperactivity deficits (ADHD) were associated with more impulsivity and more severity among patients with eating disorders.

Although not uncommon, adult ADHD has received limited scientific scrutiny. While some studies have reported an association between ADHD and abnormal eating behavior, a link between ADHD and eating disorders in adults had not been scientifically validated.

In the current study, published in the online edition of the journal BMC Psychiatry, researchers from Bellvitge University Hospital collaborated with investigators from the Department of Psychiatry of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital. The hospitals are in or near Barcelona.

ADHD symptoms related to hyperactivity such as impulsivity are sometimes present in patients with eating disorders, said lead researcher Fernando Fernández-Aranda, Ph.D.

These disorders “are found mainly in patients with a more impulsive personality: people suffering bulimia, binge eating disorders and unspecific eating disorders.

“On the other hand, more restrictive anorexic patients and those with more ability to control themselves do not show these symptoms.”

Researchers said the current study allowed them to develop a model that could be clinically useful for early detection of risk factors which could lead to an eating disorder.

ADHD symptoms are positively associated with impulsive personality traits and age. More impulsive and older patients have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. Impulsivity is also associated with a greater severity of the disorder.

Moreover, researchers say these impulsivity symptoms are associated with low self-direction, a character trait that involves the ability to plan and reach objectives in the medium and long term.

“So, patients with ADHD symptoms also have a worse prognosis because it is harder for them to be able to accomplish a treatment,” said Fernández-Aranda.

According to Fernández-Aranda, the new model will be useful not only in the clinic but also for investigating brain circuits that regulate the reward system; these are similar in several behavioral pathologies such as eating disorders, pathological gambling and other behavioral addictions.

Source: Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL)

Woman in front of refrigerator eating photo by shutterstock.

Adult Eating Disorder + ADHD = Clinical Challenges

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Adult Eating Disorder + ADHD = Clinical Challenges. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 11 Jul 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.