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Same behaviours, different reasons: what do patients with co-occurring anorexia and autism want from treatment?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Emma Kinnaird, Caroline Norton, Catherine Stewart, Kate Tchanturia

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-317
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date1 Mar 2019
Accepted/In press30 Sep 2018
E-pub ahead of print1 Mar 2019
Published19 May 2019


King's Authors


Research suggests that up to 1 in 4 individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) may be on the autistic spectrum, and that these autistic traits may not have been recognised or diagnosed prior to eating disorder (ED) treatment. Significantly, these heightened autistic traits are associated with poorer treatment outcomes, suggesting that treatment may need to be adapted for this population. The purpose of this study was to explore with people with AN on the autistic spectrum their experiences of ED treatment, and their views on what needs to be changed. Women with AN (n= 13) either with an autism diagnosis, or presenting with clinically significant levels of autistic traits, were interviewed on their experiences of treatment and potential improvements. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings suggest that this population experience unique needs associated with their autism that are not being met by standard ED treatments, and recommendations are made for potential future adaptations. Future research into a more systematic approach for treatment adaptations for this population, including education programmes for clinicians, could potentially lead to better treatment experiences.

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