Eating Disorders and Autism

Eating disorder is characterised with disturbed or abnormal eating habits. Individuals with autism, on the other hand, often find it hard to communicate and form relationships with other people. Determining whether an individual has both an eating disorder and autism is only the first step. The psychologists who are capable of assisting individuals with autism and eating disorder are few. Besides therapy, the treatment for eating disorder also requires dramatic changes in eating habits, majorly within a short duration. However, it is challenging for some individuals with autism to make dramatic changes in their eating habit. Therefore, individuals with both autism and eating disorder are less likely to recover from their eating problems due to toughened adaptability to change as compared to those with only eating disorders.

It is estimated that up to 20% of individuals with permanent eating disorders have autism. Often, it is an eating disorder in girls with autism that first brings them to clinical attention, given that they are frequently underdiagnosed. Clinical attention and research studies have concentrated on women and girls, despite the fact that boys and men with autism can and do develop abnormal eating habits. As a result of this gender bias, some people use Female Asperger’s Syndrome to refer to any eating disorder.

A demonstration by Treasure’s group in London clearly indicated significantly higher score on The Autism Spectrum Quotient from women with eating disorder, than controls do. Based on a 2014 Molecular Autism study, one out of four girls receiving outpatient treatment  for abnormal eating habits at a clinic in London had a score higher than the cut-off for autism on a screening questionnaire, regardless of the fact that only 4 percent out of 150 girls had possible autism spectrum disorder. The result of this study recommended that although the girls did not have a diagnosis, they possessed a high level of autism traits. Moreover, starvation resulting from eating disorder aggravates the autism traits seen by researchers and clinicians. Women with abnormal eating habits continue to have social as well as cognitive challenges even after recovery, though in reduced capacity as compared to when they are critically ill. This is according to a distinct study also by Treasure’s group in 2012.

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