Bulimia and ADHD: Is Your Daughter At Risk for an Eating Disorder?

Impulsive adolescent girls, particularly ones with ADHD, are especially prone to eating disorders like bulimia. Here’s what parents should know — and do.

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Bulimia Basics

A 2007 study conducted by Harvard Medical School reported that ADHD girls are 3.6 times more likely to have an eating disorder, compared to girls without ADHD. In 2008, researchers at the University of Virginia and University of California found evidence that bulimia nervosa — characterized by binge eating, followed by attempts to purge the food by vomiting or taking laxatives —was much more common in adolescent girls with ADHD than in girls without it. Impulsivity, not hyperactivity or inattention, was an excellent predictor of bulimia. Having ADD without impulsivity does not seem to put girls at higher risk for the condition.

The health problems stemming from bulimia include more than losing too much weight. They can range from stomach ulcers and tooth decay to hair loss and irregular menstrual cycles. Frequent vomiting depletes the body of potassium, which controls heart rhythm. A potassium deficiency could lead to sudden death.

AT-HOME STRATEGIES
If you suspect your daughter is struggling with bulimia, make an appointment with her doctor (see Beating Bulimia at the end of this article). Along with the course of treatment the doctor and other professionals recommend, keep these at-home strategies in mind:

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