A Possible Autism-Anorexia Link Has Been Found, So What Are We Doing About It?

| by Luke H

An anorexic girl | © Getty

On the 27 February 2019, a possible link between autism and anorexia was discovered by Autistica, a charity devoted to making autistic people happy and healthy. They stated findings that suggested one in five women with anorexia may also have autism. Their Head of Science, Dr James Cusack, has pushed for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to change their guidance to reflect this.

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a lifelong developmental disability that affects one person for every hundred in the UK.

Anorexia, also known as Anorexia Nervosa, is an eating disorder that makes people try to keep their weight as low as possible. It can affect both men and women, but it is most common in mid-teen women.

More research is required, but the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust’s Eating Disorder Service say almost 35% of its patients have autism.

Will Mandy, a leading autism researcher, believes that high levels of stress and anxiety caused by not being diagnosed with autism in childhood and adolescence can contribute to severe mental health conditions.

Mr Jackson, Learning Support Assistant/First Aider at Reading School, said “Anorexia has been linked to many other mental health disorders, and other mental health disorders have been linked to it. Autism Spectrum Disorder is known to make other mental health disorders more common. So yes, they are probably linked in a way”.

Caroline Norton, from the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust’s Eating Disorder Service (and a former patient at the facility), recently stated that “our autistic patients can have one-to-one sessions”. This is to make the patients feel more comfortable and able to talk about any concerns about anorexia, without feeling like people will judge them for it.