Obesity is one the biggest health concerns in America today, and according to a 1990 study of overweight people who had difficulty shedding any weight at all, the rate of those with ADHD was five to 10 time greater than those who were overweight but did not have ADD/ADHD. Those who have ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, tend to exhibit symptoms such as impulsivity, restlessness, distractibility, fidgety behavior, disorganization and a failure to focus.
“At all levels of obesity, patients with ADD symptoms were less successful at losing weight than non-ADD peers,” said Dr. Jules Altfas, M.D., of the Behavioral Medical Center for Treatment and Research in Portland, OR. On a behavioral level, individuals with ADHD often skip meals because they get too distracted to eat, then eat ravenously once they do eat. It’s necessary to plan meals ahead of time in order to avoid overeating, something which is difficult for someone with ADHD to do.
“Eating carbohydrates triggers a rush of dopamine in the brain,” said John Ratey, M.D., reknowned professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston and an expert in the field of ADHD. Dopamine triggers “the drive for the feeling of satiety,” he said, and people with ADHD are “chemically wired” to seek more dopamine. The tendency to be impulsive is also a symptom for those with ADHD, and when eating, it can lead to someone reaching for what is easiest, not what is healthiest.
The hardest part for someone with ADHD in the struggle against obesity is the tendency to be impatient, wanting to lose overnight all the weight it took years to put on. Being able to accept the fact that losing weight is a gradual process will help reduce frustration and hopefully improve the chances of success.
*Some information for this story was taken from ADDitudeMag.com in a story by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.