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Exploring relationships between autism spectrum disorder symptoms and eating disorder symptoms in adults with anorexia nervosa: A network approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number401
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Early online date12 May 2020
Accepted/In press21 Apr 2020
E-pub ahead of print12 May 2020
Published12 May 2020


King's Authors


Over the past few decades, research has accumulated to suggest a relationship between anorexia nervosa (AN) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Elevated ASD traits are present in around one third of those with AN, and there is some evidence to suggest that ASD traits are associated with more severe eating disorder (ED) psychopathology. The current study aimed to examine relationships between ED and ASD symptoms in individuals with a lifetime history of AN using network analysis. One hundred and one participants completed the ED Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2). A regularized partial correlation network was estimated using a graphical least absolute shrinkage and selection operator. Expected influence (EI) and bridge EI values were calculated to identify central and bridge symptoms respectively. Isolation, difficulties with relating to others, and feelings of tension during social situations were most central to the network, while poor self-confidence, concerns over eating around others, and concerns over others seeing one's body were the strongest bridge symptoms. Our findings confirm that interpersonal problems are central to ED psychopathology. They also suggest poor self-confidence and social anxiety-type worries may mediate the relationship between ED and ASD symptoms in those with a lifetime diagnosis of AN. Longitudinal studies examining fluctuations in symptoms over time may be helpful in understanding direction of causality.

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