View Full Version : ADHD and Gastric Bypass

11-14-08, 12:54 PM
Hello everyone,

I just recently discovered this forum and so far I have found so much useful information. A little about me: I am a 44 year old female diagnosed with ADHD only 6 weeks ago. I knew I was always different but I never knew why. It wasn't until a co-worker of mine suggested that I may have ADHD after his 12 year old daughter was recently diagnosed that I seriously considered this may be my problem. And so it is. My two brothers were diagnosed in childhood but they were the hyperactive type and it was easily recognizable. I am not the hyperactive type, as is true in most females.

Among my other ADHD issues, I have struggled with weight issues my entire life but could never get to the root of the problem. When I got to be morbidly obese about 4 years ago, I considered gastric bypass surgery. There are many prerequisites to having the surgery. One of them is to be evaluated and tested by a psychologist. Of course I was diagnosed with depression for which I was already taking meds for. The depression was attributed to my weight issue and very poor self esteem. After the extensive evaluation, I was cleared for surgery and the only diagnosis I received was that of depression.

Of course, I lost a lot of weight from the surgery but I have altered my body forever. Even after the surgery ( 2 1/2 years ago), I am still struggling with food issues and I have never reached the goal weight that my doctors set for me. I feel like a failure because not even a radical procedure could help me.

It wasn't until I was diagnosed with ADHD and the psychologist explained to me the possible link between ADHD and eating disorders that I was finally able to understand why I suffer from obesity. It is my lack of impulse control that is at the root of my eating disorder. I started on 20 mg Adderall XR and currently take 30 mg Adderall XR once daily and it has made a tremendous difference. I am now able to stop and think about what I am putting im my mouth. I was never able to do this before and failed miserably at many diets. It has made a tremendous difference in my life and I have been able to focus on getting my weight back under control.

I am a little angry that I did not find out about my ADHD sooner. Now I am left with a body that is forever altered and for which I underwent a very risky surgery that probably could have been avoided with a correct diagnosis, some understanding and a little medication.

Thanks for listening everyone. I just wanted to bring some awareness to this issue and I hope that doctors who perform gastric bypass surgery can begin to understand the link between ADHD and obesity.

11-14-08, 01:12 PM
yay, I've also heard if you have diabetes and you get the bypass surgery, diabetes disappears within a week.

I'm 1 BMI from obesity, ADD too.

Any before and after photos :) gotta have those!

thanks for sharing!

11-15-08, 02:37 PM
I'm 46 yrs old, live in the bay area too! and was diagnosed in September.

1. Vyvanse killed my appetite for 2 days. However, I have lost a lot of weight because I no longer crave ice cream, candy bars, etc.

2. I drink 100 oz of water every day. It started with dry mouth - now I just realize how healthy it is that I love it.

3. I no longer crave food or alcohol for comfort because I no longer get SO upset that I feel the need.

What I find fascinating IS the link between ADD meds and weight loss, not from the appetite loss, but from the emotional aspect.

02-22-09, 04:36 PM
I see that this is an old post, but wanted to give it a shot. I had gastric bypass in february 07, and in feb 08 i was diagnosed with ADD. I have not reached my goal weight from the GB surgery, but after starting vyvanse I am loosing again. Like most I wish I would have known I was ADD before the surgery.

08-31-09, 11:58 PM
I have a history of depression too. I am not on meds for it. I am on ritalin though which helps my moods sometimes. Last summer I was 309, a size 22/24 jeans. I had the gastric bypass surgery on November 3 and on the day of surgery I weighed 276.5. Now I am 165, a size 9/10 jeans or smaller depending and although I feel crummy a lot I would never go back and decide against the surgery.

I think with me I was helped so much before the surgery from the ritalin which I was put on the summer of 2008, a few months before I had the surgery. It increased my mood and made me want to move. I started to like me and my surroundings, I started to care about myself and how my house was and wanted to do well.

Now I am struggling still on and off with depression but don't take any antidepressants. I am also struggling with my self image and thinking I look sickly which I do and sometimes people have thought and asked if I was "smoking crack"... and that really offended me as I don't even smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol but I do look too thin I think. But others say I don't. I think it is that I am used to seeing a much bigger person and am not used to the new me yet.

01-14-10, 08:57 PM

I had a lap band 3 years ago and STILL had issues binge eating almost every night.

Was diagnosed 7 months ago with add and since starting meds, I almost never binge. (occasionally when I forget my meds... LoL)

I, too, wish I knew about my ADD prior to surgery.

I honestly think that before any WLS, a test for ADD should be standard issue.

01-18-10, 01:31 AM
I hope that doctors who perform gastric bypass surgery can begin to understand the link between ADHD and obesity

While I'm sure that obesity could have symptoms associated with it with ADHD, I really don't see the connection. Most ADHDers that I know are on the thinner side. This is not to say that it isn't but I just haven't seen published studies or even the majority people I know with ADHD.

Good luck with your treatment

01-18-10, 01:42 AM
re: above.

ADD in obesity can be caused by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes repeated awakenings and oxygen starvation of the brain. Memory, learning and cognitive restoration occur during proper sleep. Broken up sleep is known to cause inattention and vigilance problems.

01-18-10, 01:19 PM
re: above.

ADD in obesity can be caused by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes repeated awakenings and oxygen starvation of the brain. Memory, learning and cognitive restoration occur during proper sleep. Broken up sleep is known to cause inattention and vigilance problems.

Totally agree with that (my mom has sleep apnea & is obese) however I'd argue that it's not classic ADHD and rather the symptoms. Sort of like how they say that many people can emit symptoms of ADHD under stress or when they have personal issues (such as divorce) but that isn't seen as true classic ADHD. My understanding of ADHD is that the classic diagnosis is neurological and not environmental.

02-11-10, 07:31 PM
I can see a very good case for a between obesity and ADD. Overeating, especially binging, has been shown to cause a release of endorphins. I can see where for some, this would put overeating into the self-medicating category.

Additionally there is the impact that better impulse control will have on weight loss.

02-15-10, 03:47 AM
I'll just add, ADHD, moving around a lot, tend to be skinnier. Inattentive type, sits around a lot more (me). I have no energy, I eat more, although I haven't gained weight, I've maintained weight at maybe a less than healthy level.

03-13-10, 01:14 AM
While I'm sure that obesity could have symptoms associated with it with ADHD, I really don't see the connection. Most ADHDers that I know are on the thinner side. This is not to say that it isn't but I just haven't seen published studies or even the majority people I know with ADHD.

Good luck with your treatment

Somewhere on here a long time ago I posted a link to a study that showed that people who were obese had fewer dopamine receptors than normal.

As it happens, that is a characteristic of people with ADD.

One way to stimulate dopamine is to overeat. It's no accident that ADD meds can take away the urge to overeat, because it wasn't ever so much an urge as a need (to increase dopamine). Once that need is met with meds, one is left facing "only" the other issues that can trigger overeating. The fewer of those you have, the more help weight-wise the meds will give you.

05-31-10, 11:23 AM
First, I want to sincerely thank member jocisne for her original post in this thread more than 18 months ago. Though it appears she is no longer active, I will always be grateful for the time she took to share her experience here. Because she took the time to do this, it eventually led to a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life. I first saw this post last fall. I decided to take the time to register here and post now because this thank you is long overdue.

I am a 52 year adult male. I have been overweight or obese most of my life. After considering gastric bypass surgery for six years (a decision the should be very, very carefully and slowly considered) I finally commited to the surgery last summer. One of the many, many prerequisites for this surgery is a psychological exam. It was during that exam last summer that the possibility of ADHD was first suggested to me. Because of my many misconceptions at the time about what ADHD is and what it isn't, and because no one had ever suggested this to me before, I quickly dismissed the possibility and focused on the other things I had to do in preparation for the surgery.
It took about 6 months from the time the possibility of ADHD was first suggested until I actually sought professional evaluation and started treatment.

Long story, short version: My multi-modal ADHD treatment has fit hand-in-glove with the (also very multi-modal) weight loss surgery program. The results of these two things working together have been nothing short of life changing. Regular, consistent exercise (cardio + resistance) that I actually enjoy; the elimination of all diabetes meds (normal A1C for months now), and a normal BMI for the first time in my life. But all the additional benefits of having my ADHD diagnosed and treated? learning ways to work with my ADHD rather than constantly work against it? Totally unexpected and an incredibly positive change in the quality of my life.

Long story, longer version: While I originally rejected the possibility of ADHD and that it might be linked to my obesity, I decided to spend a small amount of time research further, if only to confirm my belief that I did not have ADHD and that it would not be a factor in my surgery. In six years of considering gastric bypass surgery (GBS), I was acutely aware that GBS is not a quick fix and should never be viewed as such. The surgery cannot be separated from the whole program; a life-long commitment to a change in thinking and behaviors, a balance of proper nutrition, portion control, and regular exercise. It is hard work. anyone who tells you GBS is 'the easy way out' is simply misinformed. The surgery itself only give you a very large kick start.

I was also very aware that any form of weight loss surgery does not somehow magically fix the underlying causes of our obesity - such factors often arise again in the months and years following surgery and can sabotage our hard work.

When I first began to look at potential links between ADHD, obesity, gastric bypass surgery, impulsive behavior, cravings, etc. I ran into this post by jocisne. It was this post that caused me to begin to dig deeper. That process took several months. I tend to be skeptical and needed to avoid any rush to judgement. But I kept running into odd coincidences. Deep things. Things that stretched back into my childhood. Eventually the coincidences were so numerous and so deep that I decided a professional evaluation was called for. I also had seen enough misinformation and scare tactics on the Internet to know that I needed to return to the person who had originally suggested the possibility. She is well versed and current in both eating disorders and ADHD in adults. I discussed this with my PCP and he agreed. This was a huge turning point.

Since shortly after my surgery, I have participated in an online support group for gastric bypass patients. As I began to learn more about how ADHD and my obesity were connected, I discovered that ADHD is much more prevalent in the obese population than in the general population. Estimates are in the 23%-36% range; one study showed that prevalence of ADHD is ~42% in people with a BMI greater than 40. Along the way I became familiar with the work of Dr. John Fleming as well Dr. Ayra Sharma.

But I also noticed an almost total lack of references to ADHD in the GBS support group. Given the very high prevalence of ADHD among the obese, it was highly unlikely that was I unique. I decided to begin writing about my experience in GBS support group starting in mid-March this year.

For those who are interested, I have told much of my personal story in a thread of 60+ posts on that support group. I restricted my original writings on this to a single thread so people who were not interested could easily avoid it. Thus I provide a brief 'table of contents' for that original post.

ADD/ADHD, Obesity and GBS

- Misconceptions (Reply #11)
- Keeping Perspective, A Caveat and Disclaimer (Reply #16)
- Good Morning? (Reply #17)
- Shake A Leg! (Reply # 19)
- Lost and Found: The Uterus As A Tracking Device (Reply #20)
- It A Kids World After All (Reply #24)
- Engines On Impulse: Food To Die For (Reply #25)
- I Can Resist Anything Except Temptation (Reply #26)
- Obesity and ADHD: Is There A Link? (Reply #27)
- ADHD: An Advantage In The High Tech Industry? (Reply #29)
- Exercise: Are You Serious? (Reply #30)
- I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet.... (Reply #35)
- ADHD And Nail Biting? (Reply #37)
- The Control Panel Of Life (Reply #38)
- Strike While The Iron Is Hot (Reply #40)
- Jerry! You're Such A Hothead! (Reply #41)
- (tips for learning about ADHD - Reply #49)
- Jerry! You Insensitive ^*%$*! (Reply #51)
- Chronic Pain? (Reply #52)
- Undiagnosed ADHD And The Lives We Touch (Reply #56)
- (reasons I'm writing this stuff - Reply #60)
- ADHD Treatment: It's About The Quality Of Life (Reply # 61)
- The Needle In The Haystack (Reply #64)

Heads up: Reading the above long series of posts is made somewhat difficult by my lack of attention to editing. This was a conscious decision (which of course I don't explain until halfway through the series of posts). Editing to the degree required for professional business communications (or even plain vanilla editing) is, for me, an excruciating and very time consuming task. If I focused on the polish, I'd never get the basic thoughts out the door. So I simply wrote. It was the best use of the limited time available to me.

Also, be aware that the very first post in a thread is always redisplayed at the top of each "NEXT" page, thus some scrolling is required.

Some additional ADHD and obesity related posts I've made to the GBS support group:

ADHD Prevalence Among Obese Adults

ADHD & Obesity - How Common?

ADHD & Obesity: Reaching The Mainstream

ADHD and Obesity: Provider Attitudes

Pre-Surgery: Were You Screened?

9 Tips From Dr. John Fleming

Thank you Jocisne, wherever you are. Every day is a premium. :)

06-02-10, 07:46 AM
I also wanted to point to the 2002 study published by psychiatrist Jules R Altfas (Behavioral Medical Center, Portland, Oregon, US) that concluded:
"The apparent association of OB+ADHD, relatively poor obesity treatment outcome and high prevalence of OB+ADHD (27.4%), especially in the extremely obese (42.6%), argue that comorbid ADHD increases the health risks of obesity, and that extreme obesity, itself a stressful condition, adds burden to the profound impairments common in ADHD. The chance that more knowledge could lead to reduction of suffering, disability and economic cost offers compelling reasons for further investigation of this subject. Inclusion of more diverse and non-clinical populations of obese and extremely obese individuals, and using research designs that better account for rater and subject biases, inter-rater reliability, and diagnostic methodology, will likely give more definitive answers to this report's questions and implications."

06-06-10, 03:34 PM
For those looking for more, this study was published in 2009:

Association Between Adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Obesity in the US Population (
(Sherry L. Pagoto, Carol Curtin, Stephenie C. Lemon, Linda G. Bandini, Kristin L. Schneider, Jamie S. Bodenlos and Yunsheng Ma)

Published in Obesity (Mar 2009, Vol 17, No 3)
"This is the first population-based study to examine the association between ADHD and obesity in adults. Results revealed that having adult ADHD increased the odds of being overweight and obese. Among individuals with adult ADHD, 33.9% were overweight and 29.4% were obese, compared to 28.8 and 21.6% respectively, of individuals with no history of ADHD."

"Results suggest that ADHD is linked to both obesity and BED in the US adult population. The presence of ADHD in overweight and obese patients has clinical implications, including difficulty with behavioral weight management skills such as self-monitoring, meal planning, and adhering to nutrition and physical activity goals. Given that BED mediated the association between ADHD and obesity, dysregulated eating patterns among adults with obesity and ADHD should be studied further."

02-14-11, 12:18 AM
Thank you for sharing your story. It's quite late when you discover your ADHD. I am hoping that you will overcome this situation in your life.

01-10-13, 04:46 PM
I know that is an old post, but I wanted to add my story. I'm 31, female and had gastric bypass 8 years ago. I never got down to where my surgeon wanted me to be and my weight was stuck at 240 for 3 years before I started Adderall XR 15mg. On the Adderall I lost 40lbs and was doing okay with my ADD symptoms (I think the dosage should have been upped a tad)- then Adderall lost it's patent and my doctor pushed me into taking Vyvanse 30mg. It didn't work at all, I gained 50lbs, and all my ADD symptoms came back with a vengence. Doctor didn't want to change dosage or put me back on Adderall. After going back and forth and paying a lot of specialist copays, I dumped him and ADD meds

After doing research now I realize why the Vyvanse never worked for me. The dosage wasn't near equivalient. I've been off ADD meds for over a year and I'm back in college now. I'm going to find a new Psychiatrist and get back on some kind of medication - working full time and going to school 1/2 time is making my symptoms worse and they need to be controlled to get the grades I need to get my degree.