The Link Between ADHD and Eating Disorders

Demi Aspey
5 mins read
Oct 23, 2023

The often misunderstood relationship between ADHD and eating disorders - let’s talk about it.

If you're here, it means you're looking for something more than surface-level insights. 

You're after understanding, recognition, and strategies to manage what seems like a labyrinth of co-existing conditions. 

We’re here to shed more light and perhaps connect some of the dots between ADHD and eating disorders.

For anyone who may find these discussions triggering, please do not continue reading without the correct support mechanisms.

We also strongly advise seeking professional help if you struggle with an eating disorder.

The Concept of Decision Fatigue in ADHD

Before jumping in, let's pause and discuss decision fatigue, especially in ADHD. 

ADHD decision fatigue acts like an invisible gremlin, wearing down your mental energy reservoirs and making even trivial choices seem monumental. 

You may have also seen it referred to as "ADHD paralysis" or “task paralysis”.

Picking out an outfit to wear, making choices for daily activities or being able to respond to requests from friends and family - all can be overwhelming for the ADHD brain.

Decision fatigue is essential to recognise as decision-making abilities directly intersect with eating patterns.

Is ADHD Linked to Eating Disorders?

ADHD and eating disorders link

The Research Behind the Curtain

Studies are increasingly uncovering the complex relationship between ADHD and various forms of eating disorders, particularly binge eating and bulimia. 

The symptoms often intermingle, whether it’s a matter of impulse control, hyperfixation, or executive dysfunction about food consumption. 

So, understanding this connection is not just crucial.

It's empowering to get your health on the right track.

The Intricacies of Binge Eating and Bulimia

Both binge eating and bulimia have shown a more explicit link to ADHD, often stemming from impulsive behaviour and a lack of control. 

The need to consume feels almost as immediate as the need to breathe, making it a struggle to moderate eating habits.

Binge-eating specifically is often associated with our lack of natural dopamine production.

Food, especially high-calorie and sugar-dense items, releases that quick dopamine boost we’re so desperately craving.

In addition to societal pressures, binge-eating cycles can often lead to bulimia in an attempt to purge or punish oneself for overconsumption. 

You’re not alone, and the road to recovery may not be linear, but it is possible.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 natural ways to increase dopamine with ADHD to help you find more adaptive ways of coping with your ADHD symptoms.

Impulse Control, Hyperfixation, and Executive Dysfunction

These three cornerstones act as the pillars supporting the link between ADHD and eating disorders. 

The impulsivity drives the urge to eat, hyperfixation makes it difficult to shift focus from food, and executive dysfunction makes it challenging to regulate eating patterns adequately.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD and Eating Disorders

The Types and Their Nuances

Regarding ADHD and eating disorders, the most commonly associated types are binge eating and bulimia. 

However, it's important to note that the link with anorexia isn't as strong, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a risk for those with ADHD. 

Impulsivity, a cornerstone of ADHD, is often a driving factor behind binge eating and bulimia.

ADHD and Bulimia

In the context of ADHD, bulimia often manifests as a cyclic loop of binge eating followed by purging, propelled by impulsive behaviours and a lack of control.

ADHD and Binge Eating

Similarly, binge eating is often linked to ADHD due to issues with impulse control and the inability to focus on moderation regarding food consumption.

ADHD and Anorexia

While ADHD is not strongly linked to anorexia, some studies indicate potential correlations, although further research is necessary to validate this claim.

It is likely that anorexia is a comorbid result of prolonged struggles with bulimia and is expected to affect females more than males.

How to Cope with ADHD and Eating Disorders

A Journey Through Treatment Options

Support from Medical Professionals

We strongly advise seeking professional help if you struggle with an eating disorder.

A qualified healthcare provider can offer tailored strategies for managing both conditions, guiding you through diagnosis, medications and therapeutic options.


Particular medications can help manage the symptoms of ADHD and consequently contribute to more controlled eating patterns.

Unfortunately, many ADHD medications also suppress appetite, so they may not be the best solution for someone with a problematic relationship with food.


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) are often recommended to address ADHD and eating disorders.

It instils new coping mechanisms, recognises behaviours, and builds strategies to overcome reactive impulses so you can regain control of your health.

Joining a Support Group

Peer-based support groups offer understanding and accountability, essential elements when managing ADHD and eating disorders. 

You can find such groups online and a supportive group that can’t wait to welcome you as part of Deepwrk’s ADHD coworking sessions.


Writing down your thoughts, triggers, and eating patterns can provide valuable insights into your behaviours and impulses.

Journaling is the unsung hero for most difficulties of our minds and can help you unlock your most authentic sense of self.

Spending Time with Loved Ones

Never underestimate the power of a supportive social circle. Loved ones can offer emotional support and sometimes recognise patterns you may miss.

Trying a New Hobby

Engaging in activities you enjoy can often act as a diversion from hyper fixation on food.

Practicing Gratitude

Acknowledging the positive aspects of your life can shift your focus and energy, influencing your eating habits.

Setting Boundaries

Drawing lines in your personal and social engagements can leave you with more energy to focus on managing your conditions.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the link between ADHD and eating disorders is like finding a key to unlocking a better quality of life. 

It may be complicated, but with the right resources and strategies, you can navigate through this.

Find your tribe of supportive folks (e.g. by joining an ADHD community like Deepwrk), and always seek help from professionals who can help you live a nourishing life. 

Important Medical Disclaimer

This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for any concerns regarding your health or diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the relationship between ADHD and eating?

ADHD decision fatigue, impulsivity, and hyperfixation can contribute to problematic eating behaviours.

What eating disorders are linked with ADHD?

Binge eating and bulimia have shown stronger links with ADHD, although the relationship with anorexia is still under study.

Can ADHD make eating disorders worse?

Yes, ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and focus issues can exacerbate existing eating disorders.

Where can I find more ADHD resources?

For more insights into living with ADHD, check out our selection of ADHD Podcasts and ADHD books.

In case you want to explore some less understood ADHD terms, head over to our articles on: ADHD Tax, ADHD burnout cycle, ADHD masking, RSD, ADHD intrusive thoughts.

Head over to our blog to discover how chronic pain and ADHD are connected.

And in our ADHD Awareness Month feature we explore in detail the ADHD misconceptions and stigmas.

Sources & References

  1. Winston Chung, Sheng-Fang Jiang, Diana Paksarian; et al .(2019). Trends in the Prevalence and Incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adults and Children of Different Racial and Ethnic Groups
  2. Shauna P. Reinblatt. (2015). Are Eating Disorders Related to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?
  3. Samuele Cortese, Bernardo Dalla Bernardina, Marie-Christine Mouren. (2007). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and binge eating
  4. Joseph Biederman, Sarah W Ball, Michael C Monuteaux, Craig B Surman, Jessica L Johnson, Sarah Zeitlin. (2007). Are girls with ADHD at risk for eating disorders? Results from a controlled, five-year prospective study.
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Demi Aspey
Demi is the founder of the creative agency, Sonder Script, a culture columnist for House of Coco magazine, a part-time lecturer, and a soon-to-be Doctor in screenwriting. She is a scriptwriter by speciality and a copywriting cultivator by trade. Demi is a mental health advocate and was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.