Eating Disorders and Autism: More common than you think – Butterfly: Let’s Talk Season 2, Episode 19

The relationship between autism and eating disorders is not well known but the two quite often go hand in hand. In fact, the connection is so common that many clinicians recommend that people diagnosed with an eating disorder should probably be screened for autism too. “Somewhere between 30 and 35 per cent of individuals with eating disorders may also be autistic,” says clinical psychologist, Amy Talbot, “but it’s likely they weren’t diagnosed prior to the eating disorder.”

PhD candidate, Laurence Cobbaert, knew she had an eating disorder, but her autism diagnosis came much later. After that, everything fell into place. “I retrospectively analysed my entire existence. And I was like, yeah, this makes sense. This is it. This is me”. Laurence says this new understanding was like a rebirth for her, a huge moment that inspired her doctoral research.

Many clinicians are working hard to help improve services available to autistic people living with eating disorders, because the aetiology of the eating disorder, and therefore the treatment approach, needs to take the autism into account.

At least awareness is growing and is much better today than carer Sue Bloom remembers. Her daughter lived with an eating disorder for decades before receiving understanding and the right kind of help. At first doctors dismissed Sue’s concerns about her child’s increasingly particular food choices. “She’s just a picky eater”, they said, but Sue had a strong sense there was more to it than that.

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