The term ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) conjures up images of skinny, frenetic kids. And while it’s true the stimulant drugs long used to treat this disorder can and do typically suppress a child’s appetite, weight gain may also be a possibility.
A new study from John Hopkins University has revealed that children with ADHD are more likely to develop an eating disorder called a “loss of control eating syndrome” (LOC-ES) that’s similar to binge eating, a condition typically diagnosed only in adults.
While the cause of this kind of excessive eating remains unclear, experts suspect a link between the impulse behavior of ADHD and loss of control over appetite and food regulation, explains study leader Shauna P. Reinblatt, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In the study, Reinblatt and her colleagues found that the odds of having LOC-ES were 12 times higher for children diagnosed with ADHD compared to those without the disorder. Those who were overweight or obese and had LOC-ES had seven times the odds of also having ADHD, compared with overweight or obese children without LOC-ES, she says.
Children with ADHD who also have LOC-ES might also have a severe form of ADHD marked by more impulsive behavior that manifests in their eating patterns, Reinblatt explains.
The bottom line: If you have a child with ADHD, pay close attention to their eating habits and appetite. Notice anything out of the norm? Consult your doctor and convey your concerns. Though more research is necessary to explain the reasons behind these findings in more depth, Reinblatt says, medical professionals should screen children for both ADHD and eating disorders throughout their treatment plan.