View Full Version : ADHD and orthorexia nervosa

10-13-13, 10:31 AM
Could people with ADHD be more likely to develop orthorexia ( My interest in this is because I definitely have the associated anxiety and occasional loss of perspective about food, fluctuating over time. Although I don't think I need to be diagnosed with anything, as I'm not undernourished or letting it take up too much time right now, I am thinking about this condition a lot and where the boundaries lie, because I can easily envision that if I let the anxiety get out of control I too could lose perspective and refuse to eat or drink at all rather than consume anything imperfect. After avoiding certain things for long enough, a phobic element creeps in so that it's about the emotional connotations of certain foods, not just the original reasoning.

According to this paper ( wnload.aspx%3FpaperID%3D29643&ei=Vp1aUqHFCq2b1AXu7IEg&usg=AFQjCNEJJ1EdLobZeNMdeCCV63F4IVyDcw&sig2=5C0ZGzRrxYLyyUtInzkQQQ) (bolding mine):

Results showed that, across the full sample, ON is independently as-sociated with self-reported weaknesses in Set-Shifting, Emotional Control, Self-Monitoring, and Working Memory. After controlling for AN and OCD vari- ables, high- and low-ON groups differed in total cor-rect trials on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. These areas of executive functioning, which are explained in the context of ON symptomatology, represent what would be considered the neuropsychological overlap among OCD and AN profiles.

All of the things that were associated with ON symptomatology, are also associated with ADHD symptomatology. However, anorexia nervosa is also associated with some of the same executive functioning deficits (only in some studies). Yet the typical profile of an anorexic is as highly self-disciplined and high-achieving in all areas of life, and they have a lower rate of ADHD than the general population, so I wonder if any executive functioning deficit is present in only a subset of anorexics, or if it doesn't in their case mean they have all the same brain abnormalities of ADHD that lead to procrastination and underachievement. If that's true of anorexia, it could also be true of orthorexia, i.e. no ADHD connection. But in my case, my main motive for nutrition optimalisation is that I don't want my executive functioning or emotional control to get worse with age. Or any aspect of intelligence or neurological health. ADHD has shown me that nothing is more important for quality of life than the quality of your brain. So for me personally, ADHD definitely causes the bulk of my motivation to eat well. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it contributes to my tendency to get overly anxious or lose perspective about it.

I'm curious about whether anybody else here relates to this or has any other thoughts about a possible link to ADHD.

10-13-13, 11:24 AM
I think with orthorexia nervosa it's different; I think (without blaming you or believing anything bad about you) that you're a little bit thinking of orthorexia the way some people in general society think of ADHD - "I have that symptom too sometimes, but I get over it, why don't you get over it too?"

If it's something that you can "get over" by being careful not to lose perspective, then I don't think you have orthorexia.

One of the coping mechanisms for ADHD - a very difficult but potentially successful one - is to become extremely particular and methodical about a lot of things, to the extent that other people (or even yourself) might look at you funny for being so "obsessed" with right behaviour, while in fact you're not literally obsessed, you're just "doing your best to cure your ADHD by working overtime". Clearly, all that is just my opinion and I'm no doctor.

10-13-13, 12:07 PM
I said that I don't believe I have it, so no, I do know the difference. In fact I get very angry when people suggest I already have orthorexia. But it fluctuates and when I feel more relaxed, I think "God, I was unnecessarily rigid and anxious about it last month", and then a month later I'll think "what was I thinking, I've been poisoning myself, everyone else is crazy and I've let them convince me it's me". A lot of the time I'm genuinely undecided about whether I'm going over-the-top or whether the sacrifices I make are rationally justified by how woefully inadequate the standard British diet and what's easily available actually is.

At its worst I have tried (and failed) to eat nothing all day because there was nothing in the house that met my standards (living with parents) and I didn't have enough money for more food. So I totally relate to the loss of perspective, it just hasn't reached a level of severity that it's damaging my health or stopping me from achieving at university. I used to be appalled at the thought of eating any non-organic food and would dread going to restaurants or other people's houses, and find excuses not to go because I thought I might lose brain function long-term. I don't think I have clinical orthorexia, but how far along the spectrum I am and how I will know when I'm approaching the line, is something I just cannot agree on from one day to the next, it's very confusing. I guarantee if you asked any of my immediate family, they'd say I do have it; my mum tried to derail my ADHD assessment years ago to tell the psychiatrist how I drove her mad about food, as to her that was just as important. So the reason I've been thinking and reading about it is just to figure out how close to the line I am and have been. How to steer clear of the line without losing the benefits of lifestyle management.