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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020

King's Authors


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.

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