An examination of the clinical outcomes of adolescents and young adults with broad autism spectrum traits and autism spectrum disorder and anorexia nervosa: A multi centre study.



To compare the clinical outcomes of adolescents and young adults with anorexia nervosa (AN) comorbid with broad autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or ASD traits.


The developmental and well-being assessment and social aptitude scale were used to categorize adolescents and young adults with AN (N = 149) into those with ASD traits (N = 23), and those who also fulfilled diagnostic criteria for a possible/probable ASD (N = 6). We compared both eating disorders specific measures and broader outcome measures at intake and 12 months follow-up.


Those with ASD traits had significantly more inpatient/day-patient service use (p = .015), as well as medication use (p < .001) at baseline. Both groups had high social difficulties and poorer global functioning (strengths and difficulties questionnaire) at baseline, which improved over time but remained higher at 12 months in the ASD traits group (p = .002). However, the improvement in eating disorder symptoms at 12 months was similar between groups with or without ASD traits. Treatment completion rates between AN only and ASD traits were similar (80.1 vs. 86.5%).


Adolescents with AN and ASD traits show similar reductions in their eating disorder symptoms. Nevertheless, their social difficulties remain high suggesting that these are life-long difficulties rather than starvation effects.

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