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Anorexia and Autistic Thinking?

An appreciation of the links between anorexia and autism spectrum disorders has uncovered new opportunities for treating the eating disorder.

Mental health professionals are now attempting to train the brains of people with anorexia to be more flexible and to see the big picture as well as fine details. In doing so, they hope patients will be less inclined to obsess about body weight and calories and be better equipped to overcome their eating disorder in the long term, as well as gaining weight more immediately.

The main reason for this change is a growing understanding of the biological basis of EDs. Twin studies suggest that between 50 and 83 per cent of EDs have a genetic basis. Now, evidence suggests that people with anorexia have cognitive traits associated with ASD. "Eating disorders and autism spectrum disorders are obviously not the same thing, but they do have some things in common," says Janet Treasure of the Institute of Psychiatry in London.