Recent research has shown a growing interest in exploring the relationship between anorexia nervosa (AN) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Both conditions seem to share areas of cognitive, social and behavioural impairment, leading to relevant implications on treatment, especially when they are in comorbidity. This literature review aims to synthesise the latest studies on this topic to investigate the co-occurrence of AN and ASD, suggest future research directions and consider implications for treatment.
Records were systematically (PRISMA guidelines) identified through PubMed, EBSCOhost, Scopus and Web of Science searching.
Thirteen studies met the eligibility criteria and were therefore included in the review. Results seem to confirm an overrepresentation of ASD symptoms in AN. Only few studies investigated the AN-ASD comorbidity in young people and report slightly lower rates than those conducted with adults.
Analysed studies suggest that while the comorbidity seems to exacerbate the severity of the condition, autistic traits appear to be rather stable over time and not related to body weight. Thus, future longitudinal studies and gender- specific assessment tools can help clarify the relationship between the two disorders, examine the onset of ASD symptoms and develop structured guidelines for treatment.