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Dr Elizabeth Shea, Clinical Psychologist at the Birmingham Food Refusal Service, describes some of the differences between avoidant eating and anorexia nervosa, with particular reference to autistic females.

Author: Dr Elizabeth Shea

Date: 24 May 2016

Eating disorder or disordered eating? Eating patterns in autism

When Phoebe (aged 14) started her GCSEs she became very anxious and began obsessively counting calories. Libby (aged 16) stopped eating some of her favourite foods after learning about healthy eating at school. Both young women (names and details have been changed) have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and both were suspected of having developed an ‘eating disorder’ following weight loss.

Eating a limited diet is commonly reported in autism (Shea, 2015). In clinical practice young people can present with complex patterns of food refusal. For some, this contains elements of two diagnostic classifications: ‘Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder’ (ARFID) and ‘Anorexia Nervosa’ (AN) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This article describes some of the differences between these two eating patterns.

From: National Autistic Society. Read more here

Eating disorder or disordered eating? Eating patterns in autism