Are Girls with ADHD at Risk for Eating Disorders? Results from a Controlled, Five-Year Prospective Study

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Abstract

Objective:

To evaluate the association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating disorders in a large adolescent population of girls with and without ADHD.

Method:

We estimated the incidence of lifetime eating disorders (either anorexia or bulimia nervosa) using Cox proportional hazard survival models. Comparisons between ADHD girls with and without eating disorders were then made on measures of comorbidity, course of ADHD, and growth and puberty.

Results:

ADHD girls were 3.6 times more likely to meet criteria for an eating disorder throughout the follow-up period compared to control females. Girls with eating disorders had significantly higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorders, and disruptive behavior disorder compared to ADHD girls without eating disorders. Girls with ADHD and eating disorders had a significantly earlier mean age at menarche than other ADHD girls. No other differences in correlates of ADHD were detected between ADHD girls with and without eating disorders.

Conclusions:

ADHD significantly increases the risk of eating disorders. The presence of an eating disorder in girls with ADHD heightens the risk of additional morbidity and dysfunction.

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