Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) seems to be the diagnostic soup de jour. We all heard about the Adderall shortages that started in late 2022 and still aren’t fully resolved now in 2024. Everyone is talking about ADHD and more and more people are getting diagnosed with it. Diagnoses are especially escalating among adults, with rates of adult diagnosis increasing four times faster than diagnostic rates for children. 

A lot of people are skeptical about this rise in diagnosis. Are smartphones making everyone develop ADHD? Is it the plastics? Is it our stressful lifestyles and chronic inflammation? Are there really that many more people with ADHD today? Or have there always been this many people with ADHD and we are now better at catching it with increased awareness and access to resources? 

Just as rates of ADHD increase, our field is continuing to grow in its own understanding of this diagnosis. As it relates to my interest in women’s issues, we know that females have historically been underdiagnosed for ADHD given the nuances of its presentation in females and female’s ability to compensate and mask symptoms. 

ADHD also has a unique and messy history with its association to eating disorders. When I started working in the field of eating disorders over a decade ago, I was implicitly and explicitly taught to be skeptical of clients who self-ascribed as having ADHD in addition to an eating disorder. I was taught that 1. Malnourished and starved brains present in similar ways to people who have ADHD, and 2. Our clients are incentivized to claim themselves to have ADHD so they can be prescribed a stimulant that would curb their appetite and further their weight loss goals. I was taught that when clients are re-nourished, their “ADHD symptoms” would resolve, confirming the above assertions. Our clients would then understand that their experiences with ADHD symptoms were really just manifestations of their eating disorder and they would feel the relief that comes with a nourished brain and be incentivized to stay in recovery. 

Join me next week for Part 2 as we discuss more about ADHD and eating disorders.