ADHD And Binge Eating Disorder
Something that I started looking at quite recently because I was curious and it’s something that I felt was affecting me, is the link between ADHD and binge eating disorder.
Before we go any further, I need to emphasize I’m not qualified to treat advice specifically on or diagnose either binge eating disorder or ADHD. I’m just sharing my own experiences with them.
If you have any concerns or questions, please consult a medical professional.
What Is ADHD?
Let’s start with defining ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
And it really comes down to when someone – it can be a child or an adult – has difficulty regulating their focus and their attention.
It can manifest as:
- getting easily distracted
- feeling restless
- impulsive behaviour
- and also getting hyper-fixated on things.
And we’ll come back to that last one a bit later on.
It’s commonly talked about in children, but it’s something that affects adults as well.
For me personally, it’s something that I’ve only really started to come to terms with in my thirties.
The Link Between ADHD And Binge Eating Disorder
There is a link between ADHD and eating disorders in the first place.
It’s regularly possible for someone with ADHD to be busy and forget to eat, misread the signals from your body or eat impulsively.
A study by Harvard in 2007 found that girls with ADHD were four times more likely to have an eating disorder than girls without.
A study by Duke University also found that around 30% of people with binge-eating disorder also have a history of ADHD.
So there could be a lot more that have issues with other eating disorders as well.
My Experience Of ADHD And Binge Eating Disorder
As I said, I’m not qualified to treat, diagnose, or offer specific advice on either ADHD or binge eating disorder.
But I can talk about how one has affected the other for me.
I’ve talked before about how my cravings only really seem to happen at night.
My own theory is just based on my own observations of my own behaviour. This isn’t a medically or scientifically backed study or any kind of conclusion like that by any means.
But my own theory is that at night, my brain tends to be free from work. So it’s running at a million miles an hour, which is pretty common in ADHD. And it tends to fixate on food because that can give it some kind of anchor.
And then hyper fixation – because ADHD means that you’re not always able to regulate how focused you are on something or how much attention you’re paying to it – can lead to intense cravings.
These cravings aren’t hunger, because they can happen even as soon as I finished a meal. And then I can try doing something else or going into another room or leaving the house or something or stepping away from food.
But that craving can still follow me.
Are Weekends Worse For Binge Eating?
So based on that, you would think that on weekends or on vacations, I’d probably be worse than during the week because my brain has a lot more free time.
But that doesn’t really seem to happen.
And here’s why I think that is.
Part of this is also from dealing with work stress. I love my job, but when you are working there is going to be some element of stress.
That doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the work. It just means that you have a lot more things on your mind.
During the day on a workday, I’m able to deal with my cravings fine. I guess that’s to an extent down to willpower and also to an extent down to the fact that I’m distracted.
But that stress also comes from the fact that with ADHD, I’m thinking of everything that I need to do, everything I want to do, and just that kind of feeling of general overwhelm.
Let The Brain Rest
I don’t want to use the word paralysed, but you know what I mean. Where you’re stopped in your tracks and you are struggling to do anything. Your mind is trying to think of everything that you need to do. All at once.
So my brain is dealing with that all day. By the time I get to the end of the day, it gets hit with this wave of relief.
And my brain has been going through this all day and then it just needs something to anchor it again. So that’s where that food craving comes from.
On days off, I’m more relaxed. I’ll probably still be prone to thinking about the stuff that I need to do or that I want to do.
But I haven’t got as many tasks in front of me, so I can devote some time and energy to it.
And I’m also not in an all-day battle of wills with my own brain. I have more mental energy in the evenings. I can keep myself in control and keep cravings at bay a little bit better as well.
Four Key Points
So to wrap this up, there are four key points.
You can have ADHD and not have an eating disorder. And on the flip side, you can have an eating disorder and not have ADHD.
Some characteristics of ADHD regardless of your age, background, or gender can leave you more prone to binge eating disorder or other eating disorders.
If you have any questions about ADHD or eating disorders and how they affect you, then please consult a medical professional.
And lastly, if you have ADHD and an eating disorder, I just want you to know you’re not alone.