Open Access Research article

The severity of ADHD and eating disorder symptoms: a correlational study

Niklaus Stulz1*, Urs Hepp1, Céline Gächter2, Chantal Martin-Soelch3, Anja Spindler3 and Gabriella Milos3

Author Affiliations

1 Psychiatric Services Aargau AG, Haselstrasse 1, CH-5401, Baden, Switzerland

2 Cantonal Hospital Aarau, Tellstrasse 15, CH-5001, Aarau, Switzerland

3 Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Zurich, Culmannstrasse 8, CH-8091, Zurich, Switzerland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:44  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-44

Published: 1 February 2013



Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and eating disorders (ED) share several clinical features. Research on the association between ADHD and ED is still quite sparse and findings are ambiguous.


Correlations between the severity of ADHD key features (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder-Self-Rating questionnaire) and the severity of specific ED symptoms (Structured Interview for Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa) were examined in 32 female patients diagnosed with ED.


Most correlations between the severity of ADHD features and the severity of ED symptoms were low (r<0.30) and did not reach statistical significance. The only exception was a statistically significant, but counterintuitive association between impulsivity and the avoidance of fattening food.


The findings in this small sample suggest a weak link between the severity of ADHD key features and the severity of single ED symptoms in female patients with ED. The role of ADHD features for the development, maintenance, and treatment of EDs seems to be intricate and requires further study.