When it comes to food, people with ADHD or other neurodiverse need to struggle with it.
- Skipping meals
- Binge eating
- Hyperfixating on specific foods
- Picky eating
- General executive functioning deficits can impact the meal planning and preparation process.
TikTokers with ADHD are going viral for sharing their ‘food hyperfixations’.🌮
Recently, TikTokers with ADHD have been going viral for opening up about their ‘food hyperfixations.’ Among them, one popular TikToker, @ADHDEatsWithGrace, says, “Food hyperfixations for me are like a culinary adventure. When I’m in my element, I can spend hours experimenting with new recipes, and it’s exhilarating.” Another, @FocusInFlavors, chimes in, “But, on the flip side, sometimes I can’t even remember to eat because my mind is buzzing with a million thoughts. It’s a wild ride, and TikTok gives me a platform to share it.” These voices are not only resonating with the ADHD community but also educating a broader audience about the multifaceted nature of ADHD.
Rachel Levin, known for her charismatic and relatable content, often shares her culinary escapades, from obsessively perfecting the art of crafting brioche to exploring a multitude of creative recipes.
“For someone like me with ADHD,” Levin explains, “food hyperfixations become a way to channel my creativity and dive headfirst into a passionate project. Whether it’s the challenge of a new recipe or the beauty of food photography, it’s a way to engage my mind fully.”
Elyse Myers, another popular TikToker, adds her perspective, saying, “My ‘food hyperfixations’ may seem eclectic, like my fascination with perfecting the art of crafting meatballs with diverse flavours and textures. ADHD has a way of making these culinary journeys a thrilling roller coaster, full of highs and lows, but it’s also an avenue for self-expression.”
Can my ADHD affect my eating habits?
Yes, like those with disordered eating, people with ADHD often deal with boredom, stress and intense feelings by overeating in order to soothe themselves. Those with ADHD may be likely to forget to eat and to binge later. They may also have trouble planning and shopping ahead, which can result in spur-of-the-moment and uncontrolled eating.
Hyperfixation in ADHD: What You Need to Know
There is a close link between hyperfixation and ADHD. People with hyperfixation would describe their experiences as similar to those that people with ADHD go through. Many successful individuals with ADHD will credit their hyperfixation tendencies as the driving force behind their professional accomplishments. However, others with ADHD find their hyperfixation tendencies problematic and a struggle to manage.
“Hyperfixation” refers to a profound and sustained fixation or obsession with a specific topic or interest, often to the extent that it disrupts other aspects of an individual’s life. While hyperfocus is a term associated with ADHD, hyperfixation is more commonly observed in individuals with autism or ADHD.
Hyperfixation in ADHD
A person with ADHD might become hyperfixated on a video game, spending hours engrossed in the virtual world, which can lead to neglect of important responsibilities or daily routines. In combination with executive functioning challenges, it can feel overwhelmingly difficult to shift from the fixation.
Are hyperfixation and hyperfocus the same thing?
Hyperfocus and hyperfixation are terms used to describe an intense concentration on a particular task or topic. Hyperfocus is a state in which an individual becomes deeply engrossed in a specific task or activity to the point of losing track of time and their surroundings.
This phenomenon is not exclusive to those with ADHD or other neurodivergent conditions and can impact anyone.
Despite its potential drawbacks, hyperfocus offers several advantages. Many individuals with ADHD find that these intense states of focus assist them in achieving tasks and goals, particularly in situations requiring a sense of urgency.
Common Types of Hyperfixation
For many teenagers and young adults with ADHD, they can become hyperfixated on video games, fandoms, creative pursuits, and thought patterns. Struggling with Executive Dysfunction can exacerbate the hyperfixation. (Take the executive dysfunction test)
🎮Gaming: Many teenagers with ADHD find video games, like Fortnite, particularly engaging. They offer constant stimulation, challenges, and a sense of achievement.
👯♀️Hyperfixation on a Fictional Character: Teenagers and young adults with ADHD may develop intense passions for specific book series, movies, TV shows, or characters. They might immerse themselves in fanfiction, fan art, and online communities dedicated to their chosen fandom. Anime is a common example. Some teenagers can have a hyperfixation on art, music, or other creative pursuits. They might spend hours drawing, painting, playing musical instruments, or engaging in other creative activities.
💬Hyperfixation on Thoughts: ADHD individuals often have racing thoughts and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli, which can lead to a form of hyperfocus on negative thoughts. They may become fixated on a particular worry or a negative memory, replaying it in their minds repeatedly. This hyperfocus on negativity can make it challenging to shift their attention away from those thoughts.
Hyperfixation on FOOD
🍕Food can be another topic of hyperfixation. As of September 2021, the obesity rate in the United States was around 36.2% (CDC).
Why❓ Two contributing factors are emotional challenges and eating habits.
- Stress, emotional coping, and strong emotional associations with certain foods can lead to an obsession with food as a source of comfort or distraction.
- Overeating, emotional eating, and irregular eating patterns can contribute to excessive calorie intake.
Can my ADHD affect my eating habits?
Many ADHDers experience challenges related to food, from quirky eating habits to serious eating disorders. Nicole Lillian Mark, shares her challenges with eating – challenges that many with ADHD can relate to.
“I don’t have a clinical eating disorder, but I do experience significant challenges related to food. For instance, I’ll forget to eat lunch until 4 p.m., eat 17 cookies for dinner, or eat the same meal for weeks in a row.”
Research focuses on connections between ADHD and overeating in adolescents and adults. A recent study of connections between ADHD and overeating in adolescents and adults found that men who were diagnosed as children with ADHD were twice as likely to be overweight in a 33-year follow-up study compared to those who were not diagnosed with the condition.
ADHD traits and behaviours that can lead to food hyperfixation
Adults and teenagers with ADHD may hyperfixate on food and overeat to satisfy their brain’s need for stimulation. Also, problems with executive function can make self-control and self-regulation difficult. Self awareness can also be a factor. People with ADHD may not be as aware of or focused on their eating habits.
ADHD and SAFE FOODS
It’s not uncommon for individuals with ADHD to prefer to eat the same food throughout the day and sometimes for extended periods. This is because it works! Struggles with executive functioning and decision making can impact the shopping process, the planning process, and the clean up process. It’s easier and safer to just stick to what takes good and works. This is why many neurodiverse individuals call them their ‘safe foods‘.
A note on eating disorders
Eating disorders and ADHD may not seem like they’d be related. But these two conditions often co-occur. Research shows a particularly strong link between ADHD and binge eating. These include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder (BED). The condition that overlaps most with ADHD is BED. It’s also the most common eating disorder.
What Causes Hyperfixation?
Food hyperfixation can occur for two reasons.
- ADHDers struggle with executive functioning, including time management and decision-making, eating the same thing every day can lessen the associated “executive energy” required to make decisions about food.
- Hyperfixation can also create a dopamine boost; people with ADHD often choose foods that are pleasing to the senses. This heightened sensitivity can result in a strong attraction to the sensory experiences of eating, leading to food hyperfixation. The act of consuming food can provide an immediate and tangible reward that may temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD, such as restlessness and impulsivity.
Food hyperfixation is characterised by a repulsion that bookends the obsession. This is because people with ADHD habituate quickly to stimuli and get bored more easily, leading to an equal-but-opposite response to the initial fixation. In other words, hyperfixation can lead to hyper-burnout on a food.
So, why do I keep eating the same food?
Three reasons you are eating the same food.
- Predictability and Routine: Eating the same foods provides a level of predictability in their daily lives, reducing decision fatigue and making mealtime simpler and less overwhelming.
- Sensory Sensitivities: New or unfamiliar foods can sometimes be overstimulating, causing discomfort or anxiety.
- Executive Function Challenges: Eating the same foods eliminates the need to make frequent choices about what to eat, streamlining the meal preparation process.
Tackling Food Hyperfixation: Strategies for Success
- Figure Out Your Hyperfixation Topic: Figuring out the things you are fixating on is one of the first steps to overcoming hyperfixation.
- Begin Analysing Your Thought Process: Analysing your thought process can help you overcome your issue.
- Set aside a dedicated time for contemplation of your hyperfixation topic: This approach resembles the withdrawal method employed in addiction recovery and can be effective in managing your condition.
- Organise Yourself: Being organised helps you manage your chores even if you are suffering from hyperfixation.
- Use Behavioral and Mindfulness Techniques: Focus on your goals while practising mindfulness and analyse their advantages and disadvantages.
Reach out to a professional
Managing hyperfixation alone is often challenging, even with mindfulness and behavioral techniques. If hyperfixation disrupts your daily life significantly, seeking professional help is wise. A healthcare expert can identify and address underlying causes, such as ADHD, using psychotherapies and counselling as potential treatments.