Autism Spectrum Condition
We often see people in our clinics who meet the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Conditions (Aspergers Syndrome). We, therefore, wanted to give some space on our website to inform people about the background to the links with anorexia nervosa.
Janet Treasure at The Maudsley Hospital (London) has been studying the links between anorexia and ASC for several years. The findings can often seem quite different — in autism, people have difficulty connecting with people in the outside world, while in anorexia, they seem consumed by other people's perceptions.
However, both anorexic and autistic people can behave obsessively and suffer from rigid ways of thinking. "Both autism-spectrum conditions and anorexia share a narrow focus of attention, a resistance to change and excellent attention to detail," says Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre (Cambridge University).
Research also shows that anorexia and autism can occur together in families more often than they would by chance. More boys (approximately 15 times more) are given a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome compared to girls, and nearly 10 times as many girls develop anorexia as boys. "The reason (Asperger's) is usually diagnosed less often in females maybe because it takes a different form — anorexia may be just one of the forms," reports Simon Baron-Cohen. Although it's important to remember that there are many factors causing anorexia and ASC is just one of these but will not always be present.
We are able to offer people screening tools, which although are not diagnostic, can indicate whether someone has symptoms of ASC. Alternatively, for some people, they may want a formal diagnosis, which we are also able to complete this using the DISCO (Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication). For others, we focus on adapting their treatment plan accordingly. If you are worried that you may have the symptoms or a diagnosis of ASC, contact us to find out more information as to how we might be able to help.