Could overeating be attributed to ODD/ADHD?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by loricbme, Jul 30, 2007.

  1. loricbme

    loricbme New Member

    My daughter wants to eat all of the time. She is 7. She appears to have symptoms of ODD/ADHD. I'm in the process of trying to get her tested/evaluated. I'm not sure if she is trying to soothe herself with food to help her cope with her feelings or if she is legitimately hungry. When she has had more than plenty to eat and wants more I'll ask her if her tummy is telling her that she's full/hungry or if she is feeling bored or something else. She will always insist that her tummy is hungry. She is tall for her age and overweight. I try to not keep junk around the house so if she does eat something without me knowing at least it's a good choice. Most of the time she comes to me and asks if she can have something to eat between meals yet still sneaks on occasion. With behavior issues at the forefront of my mind it makes me wonder if it's related somehow. husband thinks she does it because she's bored. I'm not convinced. Any thoughts on this?
  2. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I couldn't say for sure. Is she taking a stimulant for the adhd or any medications at all? That would be my first starting question.

    Some other posters should be along to share their thoughts but my uneducated guess would be that the overeating is not related to adhd or odd. When was the last time she had a checkup with her peddoc? I would start with her regular doctor especially if she is near one of her yearly visits. I think I would want to rule out some health concern there first.

  3. Janna

    Janna New Member

    If your difficult child is on a stimulant like LDM suggested for ADHD, I'd think it would curb her appetite more, not make her eat. So, if she's not on something for her ADHD (i.e. Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, etc), might be something to consider.

    I have a child ADHD, Combined Type and a child Bipolar. My ADHD son is on Concerta, and RARELY eats. However, he is also extremely active, the first one outside to play, ride his bike, etc, and doesn't like sitting on the couch in front of the TV.

    My difficult child, Dylan, who is Bipolar, on Bipolar medications, eats like a cow. Even if it's celery, he'll eat 3x more than a normal person, just to eat. He eats when he's bored, he eats when he's hungry and he eats just to eat. At almost 11, he's 120 pounds. Obese. I blame 80% of this on the medication (Lithium), and 20% on his/my eating habits (I'm the one who buys the junk).

    I would also try to redirect her. This works well for Dylan. So, for instance, if she's bugging you for something to eat, grab a board game, some crayons and coloring books, or take her outside.

    Neither of my children are ODD, and I haven't heard kids with that label, specifically, being overeaters.

  4. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Overeating can be related to mood issues, specifically anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The only way it is related to ADHD is if the child is not hungry during the day from taking stimulants (which decrease appetite). When the stimulant wears off in the afternoon or evening, the child is very hungry and eats to make up for not eating very much all day.

    If I remember correctly, your difficult child has a fair amount of anxiety. I'm guessing she's eating to self-soothe. Or if she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies, she could be eating compulsively. In addition, boredom in young children is often a symptom of depression. I'd recommend asking your pediatrician for a referral to a child psychiatrist.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    This would be worth talking to her doctor about it. How long has it been going on? Does it help if she drinks water with a meal? I wouldn't connect this with the disorders you mention, except very obliquely. Definitely time to talk to the experts, let them figure it out. But do it soon, to avoid the development or worsening of bad habits.

  6. blb

    blb New Member

    My difficult child was considered obese when she came to live with us, and she ate constantly as a way to soothe herself when she was with biomom- binge eating.

    I only kept healthy snacks in the house, so when she said she was hungry and wanted something to eat, the only option was something healthy. Since she was a carb junkie, she would rarely want that.

    I also started walking with her daily, about 3 miles a day. I'd put my oldest in the baby carriage and head for town, promising difficult child a snack of something when we arrived. The snack itself motivated her to do the walk, which eventually led to her losing a great deal of the weight until she went back with biomom and the binge eating began again.

    There have been studies recently that pointed to the fact that some obese people do not ever feel full.

    Just as an aside, my oldest has been diagnosed with adhd and is on medications. Eats like a horse and looks like a string bean.
  7. loricbme

    loricbme New Member

    Thank you for your answers. The overeating and weight gain came along around the time she started having problems in her first pre-k program that she got kicked out of. I have expressed my concern to her pediatrician a couple of times and he just tells me to give her healthy foods to choose from. I'm not kidding, he said, "give her a stick of celery." She loathes celery so it's kind of a funny comment to me looking back. Right about the time she started having problems, she and I were in a car accident. This is when anxiety started showing up in everything. We have major separation issues with her. Sometimes she's ok if she goes to grandparents for the day.. as long as it's not overnight and she knows her granny is going to buy something for her. But when she knows she's going overnight it is a constant worry. We even try to prepare her well in advance. I went to a concert with some friends this past Friday night and she was to stay with grandparents. I reassured her that I would pick her up early Sat. morning. Just the thought of it was so much for her to bear. husband was working his way home (he's a railroad engineer with no schedule so we never know when he'll be home) and he said he'd go pick her up when he got in town. I think he picked her up around 10:00. She called him on his cell phone over and over wanting to know when he'd be there. She has his number memorized, but not mine! Well, actually, that's because she's with me all of the time. Here's an example too: husband and I are members at a local golf course and she goes with us sometimes. She actually rather enjoys it. I think it's because we let her drive the cart. :smile: So since it's so hot I try to take some snacks and cold water and gatorade. I usually take a quart size ziploc bag of strawberries, some string cheese, crackers and sometimes deer sausage sticks. I am not exaggerating, I will ask her (or she'll ask me) if she wants some strawberries. I will watch husband hit his ball, I will hit my ball and when I come back to the cart she will have most of the strawberries eaten. Imagine if it was junk? Ugh. There is so much more to this but there are a couple of examples of her. I think I will contact her pediatrician. All the pediatrician has done in the past is recommend some books to read. And might I add, all the wrong ones! Maybe I need to go in and have a heart to heart. Bipolar runs in husband's family - great aunt, sister, niece.

  8. blb

    blb New Member

    I would suggest when making your snacks for her to make them in portions, so that you have portion control, ie if she eats a whole bag she's only eating x amount of strawberries. Then if she wants something else, you have her wait 10 minutes and then give her another portion. And have her ask you for the food, don't let her just take anything whenever she wants it. That way you have an idea as to how much she has eaten.

    My husband, who has had weight issues all of his life, also will just keep going and going with food if you let him. Over the last couple of years I've been trying to get him to take whichever food he wants and put it on a plate, ie a portion, and then eat it, as opposed to him opening the frig and devouring the entire quantity of something he picked up. He learned to eat as a soothing mechanism growing up in a alcoholic family where his parents were not often available. Also, if they were blitzed, his eating dinner would be opening up the frig as a kid and seeing what was available, because the "grown-ups" were too lit to heaven forbid feed their kids :nonono:

    Re her anxiety, with the car accident, of course that's understandable.

    And re the doctor's comment, I think the idea is that if she's eating because she's bored, then give her something with no caloric value. With my difficult child, she would often say she was hungry when she wasn't. I would offer her an apple or an orange, she didn't want it, ergo that was the only option so she went without, because if she truly was hungry then she would eat it.

    Just fyi, gatorade has tons of sugar in it, you may want to just mix a juice with water instead.

    Hope some of this helps :smile:
  9. loricbme

    loricbme New Member

    Another problem is that she will sneak food. Sometimes I catch her in the act and sometimes I don't. If I hear a wrapper crinkling I will say, "difficult child, what are you doing?" I will find wrappers, popsicle sticks etc, under my sofa! I should also add, that she only gets sugar free popsicles, low fat ice cream, and the only reason she ever gets gatorade is when we're golfing and it is terribly hot. She only gets the small bottles too. We try to make sure she stays hydrated. We do not keep juice in our house because she will devour it very quickly. I keep sugar free kool aid or lemonade at all times. And because she is argumentative she will argue about food too! The typical snacks I allow are fresh fruit, ff yogurt, kashi granola bar. She is not a picky eater and will try anything. I talk to her about making good, healthy choices and being strong and healthy, never about being skinny/fat. It just amazes me how much she can/will eat. Last night after golfing (we got home around 6:30-7:00) I made dinner with pork chops, corn on cob, tomatoes, lowfat cottage cheese. Maybe an hour after dinner she comes walking in our family room with two slices of bread. I told her to put them away because she just ate a good dinner. She said, "but I already took a bite out of them" I told her that it wasn't a problem and to throw them away. I feel like I have to be her "full stomach" trigger. I know there is no possible way she can be hungry.

    We also take daily walks, about 1 1/2 miles. This helps somewhat with her not getting any bigger. I really do try. Just one more thing to perplex me!

    Anyway, thanks for your help BLB.
  10. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    My youngest difficult child, also 7, would sneak foods at night. Not just a prepackaged serving either, he'd eat an entire box of snacks from Sams Wholesale Club. So basically enough snack bars to feed my family of 8 for 3 days. Then he'd move onto an entire family size bag of candy and then some sodas. When we mentioned this to his pyschiatrist, he asked if diabetes ran in my DHs family. It does, so he had our son, at 6 yrs old, take a 6 hour glucose test. After the results came in, we found out he wasn't diabetic, but reactive hypoglycemic. This meant, if he tasted anything sweet, his body would start producing insulin and his brain would never know when to tell his body to stop, so he would want more sweets and continue eating. What we ended up having to do was take him off of all sugar, natural or not, as well as anything that tasted sweet, so no fake sugar either. Barely any fruits, no sweets, no diet sodas, no yogurt and no corn or corn products or starches, bread, white potatoes etc. If he is left unsupervised, he still sneaks and has recently developed an allergy to something in forbidden foods, breaks out in hives or swells up like a pumpkin. So now we watch him constantly and at night we are all stuck behind a hall door that locks so he can't get to the kitchen. With his most recent allergy development our biggest fear is his throat closing up. He still eats like a horse, but its much healthier choices and hes a bean pole.

    You may request a glucose test, she could be diabetic, hypoglycemic or reactive hypoglycemic.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'd be concerned for a number of reasons. The anxiety - sure, it won't be helping. But from my observation of difficult child 3, when he's anxious he loses his appetite. Why would she eat more? I'm not saying there's not a connection, but I would dig to try to find out why - for example did you, in the past, try to soothe her anxiety with food?

    I agree about cutting out the Gatorade too. Down here in Australia it's hotter generally than a lot of places in the world, dryer and if anywhere we're likely to need to replace more than just water in summer, it's here. But the medical advice here is to drink WATER on hot days and NOT isotonic drinks. A sportsman who is sweating A LOT - and this has to be at the level of a marathon runner - would benefit from maybe every second drink being isotonic. But the trouble with isotonic drinks, is that they actually are not effective at replacing water, they're actually replacing electrolytes. And if you haven't lost electrolytes to the same amount that you're pouring them in, you'll actually increase the thirst (which you're quenching with more Gatorade... vicious circle).

    We brought a rule in with our kids - every second drink has to be pure water. Putting ice in it is good, it helps you feel you're getting a bit of luxury, a bit of special attention. I like the long ice blocks that fit into a drink bottle. Alternatively, we freeze a drink bottle and then keep topping it up from a tap, so it gradually thaws and chills itself. If I'm going to the beach in summer, I'll grab a couple of drink bottles from the fridge, plus a larger bottle at room temperature.

    As for some of the possible causes of weight gain/constant eating - there are psychological causes and there are physical causes. A cause I didn't want to mention, is Prader-Willi Syndrome. There is a boy with this in difficult child 3's drama class. It's tragic - it's a congenital problem in the hypothalamus where the satiety centre in the brain simply isn't working - these kids are convinced that they're as hungry as when they began to eat. Left unsupervised, they could literally eat until their stomach bursts. They simply cannot feel when they are full. To add insult to injury, they only burn 70% of the calories of a healthy kid the same age. They feel constantly tortured by hunger.

    I also used to work for a professor who studied rats and eating. He was especially studying the pituitary gland, which sits right under the hypothalamus. Occasionally one of his rats (pituitary removed surgically) would be different - instead of staying slim and not ageing, it would eat and eat and eat... on autopsy (he would autopsy every rat, when it eventually died) he would find that during surgery the hypothalamus had been damaged. On closer examination, he found that only when one particular tiny area had been damaged, did these rats eat uncontrollably. This was similar to some kind of induced Prader-Willi. Different, because there are other aspects to Prader-Willi that involve other areas of the body, but it's a thought.

    You say she was in a car accident at about the time the problems started. This could be psychological, or there could be a physical component. You need two different experts to give you some sort of feedback on this and you need a cooperative pediatrician to support your search for answers ("eat a stick of celery" - humph! Doesn't that bloke listen to you?)

    I would be getting her seen by a clinical psychologist who works in cognitive behaviour therapy, to try to help her with the anxiety. And I would also be asking to have her referred to an endocrinologist, to assess the possibility that some injury from the accident could have affected her hormonally, at least with her satiety centre.
    You need help. If she tests out OK with the endocrinologist then that will put the need for help back with the psychologist. Or the pediatrician may have other suggestions for help. But help you need, and not just celery. it's not magic about losing weight anyway. It's just another high-fibre vegetable... what about carrots? Tomatoes? Oranges? And yes, strawberries are fine (although can be expensive). Low in carbs, too. I seriously can eat a whole punnet, quite happily. Our favourite summer food is a big bowl of home-made fruit salad. No added sugar - it doesn't need it. Or you can freeze it, puree it and make ice-blocks with it - just as healthy, it just FEELS like you're being naughty. I would have a frozen fruit smoothie for breakfast - loved it. Until I began to head for low GI foods (which fruit on its own is not, unfortunately).

    Good luck, this isn't an easy one.

  12. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Marg, my experience is that some kids lose their appetite and don't eat when they are anxious (like your difficult child 3 and my daughters). Other kids, like my difficult child 1, eat more when they are anxious and depressed. For him, it is comforting and soothing. He frequently binges in the evening when he is feeling particularly low. It has nothing we as parents did to soothe him as a younger child. This is a maladaptive coping strategy he discovered on his own.
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I don't doubt it. My best friend is, I strongly suspect, a comfort eater from way back. Although it was fuelled a lot by depression, it was also fuelled by defiance and anxiety, because her father was emotionally abusive and was constantly criticising her weight. She was the lucky one, though - she was the younger one. The older one bore a different load and has different issues, also involving anger, a vast amount of anxiety and getting worse now she's getting older.

    Everyone's different. it's just an observation on how complex this can be. Pure anxiety with no other complicating factors - it would cut back on appetite because anxiety is linked to adrenalin output which takes blood supply from the digestive system and sends it to the skeletal muscles (for flight or fight response). This cuts back on digestion. But where some emotional link has formed between anxiety and eating, you can get the opposite. It is maybe not rare but it is unusual, though. And as you said (and in the case of my friend) this is often something they develop on their own, as a coping strategy. In her case, she got some sort of savage satisfaction in turning to food when afraid, upset or angry at her father. It gave her back some sense of power and control. Her sister went the other direction - she was always the image set on the pedestal for the younger one to aspire to, and in being compared favourably all the time (which you would think would make a girl happy - it sure didn't) she became anxious to always look her best and be seen to be the best, at least in looks. She had to develop control somewhere, and her health has suffered badly. Now they're both getting older and nothing can prevent ageing - the older one is panic-stricken constantly that she is beginning to lose her looks. So much else to value about herself - and she can't.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 just got home from college, upset at a group test that she felt went badly. I cooked roast chicken - she won't eat it. Too upset. She IS having a small serve of soup but only because she prepared it herself before she left for college tonight.

    We used to have trouble with difficult child 3 raiding the fridge. We put a child lock on it, but this kid could defeat just about anything. He could climb to get any keys (climbing to ceiling height if he needed to) and when determined, nothing can stop him.

    In the same way, you can't do much when you have a kid who is REALLY determined.