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You have to leave the autism at the door: carers’ views on autism and eating disorders comorbidity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry Open
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020

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King's Authors

Abstract

Background
Patients with co-occurring anorexia nervosa (AN) and autism respond differently to eating disorder (ED) treatments. Previous interviews with patients with both conditions and clinicians working in ED services has highlighted service and treatment adaptions might be beneficial and could improve outcomes for these individuals.
Aims
The aim of this study was to explore carers’ experiences of current treatment approaches for autistic people with AN, and their views on how these can be improved.
Method
10 carers of a loved one diagnosed with autism and AN were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule and the transcripts were analysed with thematic analysis.
Results
Four key themes emerged from the interviews: the role of autism in AN, carers’ problems with clinical services, the impact on carers, and suggestions for future improvements.
Conclusions
Carers agreed that autism played a significant role in the development and maintenance of their daughters’ AN. However, this co-morbidity does not appear to be appropriately addressed in current treatment provisions. They described several difficulties, including problems getting an autism diagnosis and the perception that ED services did not accept or adapt around the condition. This resulted in feelings of frustration and isolation for families, a scenario exacerbated by a perceived lack of support or specific resources for carers of individuals on the autistic spectrum. Clinical recommendations on the basis of the current and previous studies are outlined.

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