ADHD Indicator for Eating Disorders

Photo: Fast Food

ADHD increases the risk of
developing eating disorders in
girls; © SXC

Many children with ADHD suffer through a range of problems, from poor grades to poor relations with parents and teachers, and more than half have serious problems making friends. Because the disorder is far more common in boys, researchers are still learning its long-term effects on girls.

"Our finding suggests that girls may develop a broader range of problems in adolescence than their male counterparts," said University of Virginia psychologist Amori Yee Mikami, who led the study. "They may be at risk for eating problems, which are a female-relevant domain of impairment. We know that eating disorders occur ten times more often in girls than boys."

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.

Girls with the "combined type" of ADHD - those with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity - were most likely to have adolescent bulimia nervosa symptoms, relative to girls with the "inattentive type" of ADHD, those with inattention only, and girls without ADHD. Girls with both types of ADHD were more likely to be overweight, to have experienced harsh/critical parenting in childhood, and to have been peer-rejected than girls without ADHD. Mikami said she believes these factors could contribute to the bulimia nervosa symptoms.

"An additional concern is that stimulant medications used to treat ADHD have a side effect of appetite suppression, creating a risk that overweight girls could abuse these medicines to encourage weight loss, though we have not yet investigated that possibility," Mikami said. She warned parents and teachers to be aware that adolescent girls with ADHD may develop an array of female-relevant symptoms beyond the standard ADHD symptoms, to include eating disorders, depression and anxiety.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Virginia