A new study has found that girls with the eating disorder anorexia may also tend to display traits that are usually found in people with autism.
Researchers from Cambridge University found that, when compared to typical girls, those with anorexia have a higher than average number of autistic traits.
They were found to have more interest in systems and order, and lower scores in empathy
“Traditionally, anorexia has been viewed purely as an eating disorder. This is quite reasonable, since the girls’ dangerously low weight and their risk of malnutrition or even death has to be the highest priority,” autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen told Reuters.
“But this new research is suggesting that underlying the surface behavior, the mind of a person with anorexia may share a lot with the mind of a person with autism.”
He continued, “In both conditions, there is a strong interest in systems. In girls with anorexia, they have latched onto a system that concerns body weight, shape, and food intake.”
Anorexia is a notoriously difficult condition to treat – many patients continue to struggle with food and control issues throughout their lives.
The findings of the study could shed new light on treatment methods that would be more effective at helping anorexics overcome their illness.