There are different reasons why autistic people may struggle with eating disorders. We have summed up some of the most common ones below.
Many autistic people have sensory processing differences and may find the smell, taste and texture of certain foods unpleasant or repulsive. For some people, this can result in having a very limited diet and can sometimes lead to developing an eating disorder.
Autistic people often have a tendency to think literally. Reading about healthy eating in a magazine, or listening to a talk about nutrition at school, can cause a fear of eating the ‘wrong’ thing, which can form the basis of eating disorders.
Fear of changing body shape
Some autistic people may develop a fear of changing body shape. Physical changes through puberty can be frightening and a desire to stay the same can result in a fixation around controlling numbers – weight, calories, fat, sugar and so on. Recording these statistics is often a key part of this.
Avoidant and Restricted Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Avoidant and Restricted Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder we have only recently begun to understand in autistic people. People with ARFID are often ‘picky eaters’ as children, who develop a fear of different or certain foods from a young age which is often sensory-related.
If you think that you or someone in your family may be suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to speak to your doctor or another health professional about this. Professionals also need to be aware that because of differences in processing style, autistic people may not respond to conventional therapies and approaches unless they are adapted.
Read more about eating disorders and where to find help by clicking on the links below
Links to more resources
Stress and anxiety and its impact
Autistic people can have difficulty managing their own emotions as a result of their differences and can quickly become overwhelmed. They may be more prone to meltdowns or may appear to ‘overreact’ to something others consider minor. Read more on how to help autistic people with stress and anxiety.