Autistic characteristics in eating disorders: treatment adaptations and impact on clinical outcomes

Zhuo Li*, Daniel Halls, Kate Tchanturia, Sarah Byford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
151 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Autistic people with eating disorders (EDs) may have special needs that are not met in standard ED treatment, raising the need for treatment adaptations to accommodate co-existing autism spectrum condition (ASC). Little is currently known about the nature of existing treatment options or adaptations for this population. We conducted a pre-registered systematic review to: (1) identify research articles describing existing interventions for patients with ED and comorbid ASC, and to critically review evidence of their clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness (Review 1); (2) review the impact of ASC comorbidity on ED clinical outcomes (Review 2). Method: Peer-reviewed studies published until the end of December 2020 were identified through a systematic search of the electronic databases: Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, Web of Science, CINAHL, Scopus and Cochrane Library. Results: Only one clinical pathway of treatment adaptations (the ‘PEACE’ pathway) was identified in Review 1 with early evidence of cost-savings and favourable treatment outcomes. ASC characteristics were shown in Review 2 to have no direct impact on physical outcomes or ED symptoms, but could be associated with higher rates of comorbidities and greater use of intensive ED treatment. Additionally, patients with ASC characteristics may benefit more from individual sessions, rather than group sessions. Conclusions: Any new treatments or treatment adaptations may not directly impact on ED symptoms, but may be better able to support the complex needs of the ASC population, thus reducing subsequent need for intensive treatment. Future research is warranted to explore evidence of clinical and cost-effectiveness of interventions for this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-690
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Eating Disorders Review
Issue number5
Early online date30 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Eating disorder
  • Autism
  • treatment adaptation


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