“For Me, the Anorexia is Just a Symptom, and the Cause is the Autism”: Investigating Restrictive Eating Disorders in Autistic Women

Janina Brede*, Charli Babb, Catherine Jones, Mair Elliott, Cathy Zanker, Kate Tchanturia, Lucy Serpell, John Fox, Will Mandy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Autistic women are overrepresented among people in treatment for Anorexia Nervosa (AN). The current study aimed to: (1) better understand how AN develops and persists in autistic individuals from the perspective of autistic women, parents and healthcare professionals; (2) derive a theoretical model of restrictive eating difficulties in autism. We conducted 44 semi-structured interviews and used Thematic Analysis to identify patterns of meaning across the data. Themes related to sensory sensitivities, social interaction and relationships, sense of self and identity, difficulties with emotions, thinking styles, and a need for control and predictability. We developed a model of potential autism-specific mechanisms underlying restrictive eating difficulties. This study generated novel insights, which have the potential to inform treatment adaptations following empirical testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4280-4296
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume50
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Autism
  • Co-occurrence
  • Eating disorders
  • Females
  • Qualitative research

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