ADHD: a risk factor for developing an eating disorder during adolescence in girls
A recent study published in the current issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a much greater risk of developing an eating disorder during adolescence. According to psychologist Amori Yee Mikami of the University of Virginia, “Adolescent girls with ADHD frequently develop body-image dissatisfaction and may go through repeating cycles of binge eating and purging behaviors that are common in bulimia nervosa.” The girls in the study found to have the highest risk were those that had a “combined type” of ADHD, which included both hyperactivity and inattention. However, all the girls in the study with ADHD were more likely to be overweight. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medical News Today that reviews the study’s findings:
“Our finding suggests that girls may develop a broader range of problems in adolescence than their male counterparts,” Mikami said. “They may be at risk for eating problems, which are a female-relevant domain of impairment. We know that eating disorders occur 10 times more often in girls than boys.”
Additionally, Mikami noted that because ADHD is more common in boys, many girls with the disorder may go undiagnosed and untreated.
“Girls with ADHD may be more at risk of developing eating problems as adolescents because they already have impulsive behaviors that can set them apart from their peers,” Mikami said. “As they get older, their impulsivity may make it difficult for them to maintain healthy eating and a healthy weight, resulting in self-consciousness about their body image and the binging and purging symptoms.”
The study was conducted with an ethnically diverse sample of 228 girls in the San Francisco Bay area; 140 who had been diagnosed with ADHD and 88 matched comparison girls without ADHD. They were first assessed between the ages of 6 and 12 and again five years later.