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Keywords:

  • eating disorder;
  • anorexia nervosa;
  • autism spectrum disorder;
  • repetitive stereotyped behavior

Abstract

Objective:

To investigate whether young people (8–16 years) with an eating disorder have a higher prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASDs) and elevated autistic traits compared to typically developing (TD) peers.

Method:

Twenty-two participants with early onset eating disorder (EOED) were assessed using standardized ASD measures and compared to IQ matched TD (n = 24) and ASD (n = 20) controls.

Results:

An ASD diagnosis was no more common in EOED than in TD controls. However, repetitive and stereotyped behavior was more often observed in the EOED group and, compared to TD controls, there was a trend (p = .07) toward greater autistic social impairment in EOED.

Discussion:

Whilst participants with EOED did not show increased ASD prevalence, they did have elevated autistic traits of clinical significance, particularly repetitive and stereotyped behavior. Further work is required to determine whether inflexibility and social difficulties in EOED have identical phenomenology and etiology to those seen in ASD. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)