Anorexia and Autism symptom similarity may lead to treatment revolution says top Psychologist

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A scientific study conducted by Cambridge University Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has found distinct similarities between symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa sufferers and those diagnosed with Autism.

The study published earlier this week in the BioMed Central  Journal Molecular Autism, looked at traits in 66 young women ages between 12 and 18, who had not been diagnosed with Autism, or an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The researchers compared them to more than 1,600 typical teenagers in the same age range, measuring their autistic traits using a score called the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), their “systemising” using the Systemising Quotient (SQ), and their empathy using the Empathy Quotient (EQ).

The girls who had been diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa scored five times the average AQ score, which is where an individual with a High Functioning ASD would usually score. It seems that a number of these girls have been misdiagnosed as they see members of the medical community first for their anorexia.

Speaking to Reuters earlier this week, Mr Baron-Cohen said:

“But this new research is suggesting that underlying the surface behavior, the mind of a person with anorexia may share a lot with the mind of a person with autism. In both conditions, there is a strong interest in systems. In girls with anorexia, they have latched onto a system that concerns body weight, shape, and food intake.”

The exact triggers for Anorexia Nervosa have never been found. It is thought to be triggered by a number of psychological, psychological  and environmental factors surrounding the individual.

Co-author of the study Tony Jaffa said:

“Shifting their interest away from body weight and dieting on to a different but equally systematic topic may be helpful. Recognizing that some patients with anorexia may also need help with social skills and communication, and with adapting to change, also gives us a new treatment angle.”

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About Shân Ellis

Shân Ellis, is a qualified journalist with five years experience of writing features, blogging and working on a regional newspaper. Prior to working as a journalist, she was a ghost writer for top publishers and was closely involved in the editing and development of book series. Shân has a degree in the sciences, and 5 A levels. She lives in the UK and is the mother of an autistic child.