Do Anorexics and Autism Spectrum Disorder share any common characteristics?

Yes, say scientists in the journal, European Eating Disorder Review, published in 2011. Read the article by clicking here. They speculate if anorexia nervosa (AN) a version of autism spectrum disorders (ASD)?

Quote: ….

There are reports of disturbed processing of oxytocin (Odent, 2010) and dysdiadochokinesis (a neurological soft sign associated with developmental disorders) in both AN and ASD (Råstam, 1992; Råstam, Gillberg, & Wentz, 2003; Tchanturia, Morris, Anderluh, Collier, Nikolaou, & Treasure, 2004). Furthermore, AN and ASD appear to co-exist within families (Gillberg, 1985; Comings & Comings, 1991; Steffenburg, 1991) indicating that these observed similarities may reflect a direct genetic link.


Based on the proposed similarities between the cognitive profiles of the disorders, it was hypothesised that ASD and AN groups would not perform differently across tasks.


Read the article by clicking here.

What were the authors results?
Cognitive profiles of the groups were statistically similar, except for differences in the relative patterns of empathy scores. Interestingly, the scientists note that the triad of behavioural impairments (social impairment, communication impairments and restrictive and repetitive behaviours) are noted to cluster together and co-occur above chance expectations, even outside of a diagnosis of autism (Happé & Ronald, 2008; Wing & Gould, 1979). Yet, this clustering of all three cognitive features within a disorder appears fairly specific to Anorexics(AN) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The scientists add: There are, in fact, significant differences between the disorders. Whilst AN has more recently been described as a developmental disorder (Connan, Campbell, Katzman, Lightman, & Treasure, 2003), there are differences in age, gender and developmental stage of onset and there can be an association of low IQ and learning difficulties with ASD that is absent in AN.

Limitations The scientists list several limitations to this study.

Read more

What is Anorexia?

A severely Anorexic young woman

For those of you who do not know the current crisis of the eating disorder of young women and recently, young men, you might find this review very informative. I must warn you that some of the photos are quite disturbing. It includes a historical narrative of the changing image of the female body and shows the modern ‘anorexic’ women photos, some of whom have crossed the extreme and are dying. Now, it is happening to young men. I have no photos of young men here since it is a newer trend, probably. To see the photos and read the article on anorexia click here.

What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
An autism spectrum disorder (ASD), also called a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). The Massachussetts General Hospital says ASD is a biological brain disorder that significantly affects an individual’s ability to understand people, interpret events, communicate, and interact with others. These disorders are described as occurring on a spectrum because of the wide variability of impact they may have on everyday functioning. The scope, variety, and severity of symptoms differ in each individual, but in general, autism spectrum disorders are characterized by:

Difficulty with communication
Impairments in social skills and understanding of how to engage and interact with others
Unusual behaviors and interests (such as attachments to unusual objects or speaking in cartoon or movie scripts)
Read more.


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Filed under Health, Research, Science

6 responses to “Do Anorexics and Autism Spectrum Disorder share any common characteristics?

  1. Wow, very interesting. I never thought to relate the two disorders, though after reading this it’s got me thinking!

    • I agree with you. The single-minded concentration of the Aspergers person when compared with the extreme will power of the Anorexic, show a highly determined, goal-oriented person. The problem in the case of the Anorexic is that it may be detrimental to their own health.

      • Absolutely! You pin-pointed it right there: the goal-oriented, single-minded will. Many of the cognitive symptoms are the same–isolation, focus, etc. Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. Hi PN! I switched servers and lost all my followers in the process. Hope you’ll stop by and resubscribe!

    I am always so taken aback when I see photos of those suffering from anorexia. Sad thing is this disease goes both ways (meaning obesity), however, obesity seems to have more of a you are lazy, ugly, stupid, just fix it that goes along with it rather than… you have a disease, something isn’t right let’s try to fix it.

  3. Pingback: A single shared component has been confirmed in allergy and autoimmune diseases | Pursue natural

  4. Pingback: World Hunger, Rising Obesity, Anorexia: which nutrition group to stress on World Food Day? @FAOWFD #wfd2013 | Pursue natural

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