Open Access Research article

ADHD symptomatology in eating disorders: a secondary psychopathological measure of severity?

Fernando Fernández-Aranda123*, Zaida Agüera12, Rita Castro1, Susana Jiménez-Murcia123, Jose Antoni Ramos-Quiroga456, Rosa Bosch45, Ana Beatriz Fagundo12, Roser Granero27, Eva Penelo7, Laurence Claes8, Isabel Sánchez1, Nadine Riesco1, Miquel Casas456 and Jose Manuel Menchon135

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Bellvitge-IDIBELL, Barcelona, Spain

2 CIBER Fisiología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERobn), Instituto Salud Carlos III, Barcelona, Spain

3 Clinical Sciences Department, School of Medicine, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

4 Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Vall d´Hebron, Barcelona, Spain

5 CIBER Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Instituto Salud Carlos III, Barcelona, Spain

6 Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

7 Departament de Psicobiologia i Metodologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

8 Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:166  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-166

Published: 11 June 2013



Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has commonly been described in psychiatric disorders. Although several studies have found positive associations between abnormal eating patterns during childhood and ADHD, there is a lack of studies on ADHD and Eating Disorders (ED). The aims of this exploratory study were 1) to assess the ADHD symptoms level in ED and to ascertain whether there are differences among ED subtypes; 2) to analyze whether the presence of ADHD symptoms is associated with more severe eating disorder symptoms and greater general psychopathology; and 3) to assess whether the ADHD symptoms level is associated with specific temperament and character traits.


191 female ED patients were included. Assessment was carried out with the EDI-2, ASRS-v1.1, the SCL-90-R and the TCI-R.


The ADHD symptoms level was similar in bulimia, eating disorder not otherwise specified and binge eating subtypes, and lower in anorexic patients. Obsessiveness and Hostility were significantly positively associated with ADHD symptoms. A path model showed that ADHD was associated with high Novelty Seeking and low Self-Directedness, whereas ED severity was influenced by ADHD severity and low Self-Directedness.


Bingeing/purging ED subtypes have a high ADHD symptoms level, also related with more severe eating, general and personality psychopathology.

Eating disorders; ADHD; Psychopathology; Personality profiles