Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder & Eating Disorders: Is There a Link?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, is a common childhood disorder. ADHD can often persist into adolescence and adulthood. The prevalence of ADHD is thought to be between 6-7% among children and adolescents and ~5% among adults (Willcutt, 2012).

Increasingly, evidence from multiple studies has pointed to comorbidity between ADHD and eating disorders (EDs). For example, one study found that young females with ADHD were 5.6 times more likely to develop clinical (i.e., diagnosable according to DSM-5) or subthreshold (i.e., sub-clinical) bulimia nervosa (BN) (Biederman et al., 2007). Another study found that found that 21% of female inpatients at an ED unit had six or more ADHD symptoms (Yates et al., 2009).

However, most previous studies are limited by the fact that they assessed comorbidity between ADHD and EDs among patients. This limits our ability to generalize these findings to community samples, where many … Continue reading →

Comorbid PTSD and Eating Disorders: Can Treating One Improve The Other?

Women with bulimia nervosa are three times more likely to struggle with PTSD than women without eating disorders, according to a study by Dansky and colleagues (1997). In that study, 37% of individuals with bulimia nervosa had lifetime PTSD, compared to 12% of women without eating disorders. That’s almost two in five.

Treating eating disorders is hard, but treating eating disorders with comorbid conditions is way harder. There is no consensus, it seems, as to what disorder(s) to treat first, or whether they should be treated simultaneously:

Brewerton (2004) suggests that eating problems should be addressed prior to treating PTSD because bingeing and purging contribute to a state of physical and emotional dysregulation. Fairburn (2008), however, suggests that significant comorbid disorders be treated prior to beginning CBT for eating disorders.

The issue is quite complex,

For example, the presence of severe depression, of which hopelessness and difficulty

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Impulsivity in Eating Disorders is Associated with Bingeing/Purging

There is a marshmallow in front of you. Can you wait for twenty minutes, starring intently at the white, soft, cylindrical shaped sweet, to get another marshmallow? Or do you devour it right away, forgoing the opportunity to have two sweets?

I’d probably wait. But that’s only because I don’t like marshmallows, and would be in no rush to consume either one or two of them. What about you?

That’s the famous experiment that’s shown to many first year psychology undergrads (I, too, watched videos of little kids anxious waiting for 20 minutes, or not, in my first year psych class). It was designed to measure delayed gratification, in other words, are you able to wait, to get a reward, to delay gratification?

Leah recently asked whether studies have looked at delayed gratification in eating disorder patients. What I loved about her comment is that she included a hypothesis: … Continue reading →