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(Australia) Is there a link between ASD and eating disorders? Experts call for study

Oct 13, 2019, ABC News: Eating disorders and autism spectrum disorder link needs more research, experts say Experts are calling for more research into the link between eating disorders and autism spectrum disorder to come up with better treatment and support services…. Carrie's 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with anorexia by a psychiatrist two years ago after a lengthy search for answers, but her mother said she probably had it for eight months prior to the diagnosis…. "My daughter has tried to jump out of a car. We were going about 80 kilometres an hour at the time," she said. Recently a new doctor asked Carrie if her daughter was on the spectrum. "Maybe if she is on the spectrum, then maybe the eating disorder is a direct result of her anxiety," she said…. More children are being diagnosed with both anorexia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to a senior social worker at The Children's Hospital at Westmead Eating Disorders Service, Colleen Alford, the prevalence is well known worldwide with more than 20 per cent of adults diagnosed with anorexia also having ASD…. Westmead Hospital in Sydney has just started a small focus group and pilot project looking at adjunct treatment for children with ASD and anorexia. Is autism a risk factor for other eating disorders?... "Between 20 and 30 per cent of these people with anorexia nervosa were also autistic," Dr Mandy said…. 'Maybe autistic women restrict eating to manage unbearable emotions' Christine Naismith is the founding board member of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA), a volunteer organisation made up of people with lived experience of being a carer of somebody with an eating disorder — and the parent who helped Carrie seek help. Ms Naismith has two daughters, a 23-year-old who has recovered from anorexia and a 17-year-old-daughter diagnosed with Avoidant Restrictive Feeding Intake Disorder (ARFID). "It's picky eating gone crazy," she said…. Dr Mandy said the main barrier in diagnosing women with autism was the current conception that autism was based on a "male-typical presentation" that made up most of the studies…. Women were also more adept at masking or social camouflaging. "We need to get a much better understanding of what mechanisms are causing and maintaining these really serious restrictive eating problems in autistic people," Dr Mandy said…. For the first time in regional Australia, EDFA has started a new support group in Bendigo for parents and carers of teenagers and young adults with eating disorders run by facilitators with lived experience. "It was amazing," Carrie said….


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