Exploring self-reported eating disorder symptoms in autistic men

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Abstract

Background: Although research suggests a relationship between restrictive eating disorders (EDs) and autism, there is a lack of research in this area from the perspective of autistic men. Our aim was to explore whether ED symptoms are heightened in autistic men compared with nonautistic men.

Methods: We recruited 103 autistic and nonautistic participants through an online study. We assessed ED symptoms, autistic features, anxiety, depression, and body mass index (BMI) using self-report measures.

Results: Autistic men (n = 54) exhibited significantly higher levels of ED symptoms in the areas of eating (p < 0.001), shape (p = 0.005), and weight (p = 0.001) concerns, and the global score (p = 0.046) than nonautistic men (n = 49). However, autistic men scored significantly lower in the area of dietary restraint (p = 0.032). Global ED scores did not correlate with autistic traits, but did correlate with anxiety (p < 0.001) and BMI (p < 0.001) in the autistic group.

Conclusions: This exploratory study suggests that heightened ED symptoms in autistic men may be related to heightened levels of anxiety and higher BMIs, rather than autistic traits. It also highlights that autistic men may experience symptoms not relating to dietary restraint. Future research should consider further exploring the relationship between anxiety, BMI, and disordered eating in autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-310
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Volume1
Issue number4
Early online date13 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Dec 2019

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