F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

Welcome to F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum. This is a free service provided for parents of those suffering from eating disorders. It is moderated by kind, experienced, parent caregivers trained to guide you in how to use the forum and how to find resources to help you support your family member. This forum is for parents of patients with all eating disorder diagnoses, all ages, around the world.

Join these conversations already in progress:
• Road To Recovery - Stories of Hope
• Events for Parents and Caregivers Around the World
• Free F.E.A.S.T Conference Videos

Visit the F.E.A.S.T website for information and support.

If you need help using the forum please reach out to one of the moderators (listed below), or email us at bronwen@feast-ed.org.

Need to talk with another parent? F.E.A.S.T. parents offer peer support via:

It was suggested at the last session with the psychiatrist that an underlying cause to our daughter's anorexia could well be down to autistic traits.  Prior to her getting this condition she didn't show any and I don't know if it is a 'chicken - egg ' situation i.e. which came first.   Before this condition she was happy, smiley, confidant, sociable etc etc.    As this condition took hold unsociable, fixed mindset, etc.   

My concern is would this make the condition more difficult to treat?  I have searched the forum for this type of thread but just wondered if anyone had been through this and if the traits disappeared once recovered from anorexia or if it made anorexia nigh on impossible to treat!    

It really is just one thing after another....definitely not a straight course through this!!!
That's partly how I feel as this has never been a concern considered by us or raised by school however it could be an underlying cause which has gone unnoticed.  We have the same issue, she really doesn't want to change at all and also isn't engaging with CAMHs.  She is attending the sessions but in the main as soon as she leaves the door she is fairly hysterical/angry and clearly doesn't want to be there or follow any guidance.  Luckily she is eating the food we give her so possibly over time things will get better.

Hi Joanne
A lot of kids with anorexia have underlying traits of inflexibility and being driven by rules. 


It must be quite difficult to diagnose autism for the first time when a young person is malnourished, as certainly my experience is my child became very rigid in thinking, withdrawn, struggled socially, depressed, anxious etc. This has greatly improved with weight-gain. My understanding is that Anorexia can mimic autism. 

on the other hand, some kids with autism develop eating disorders. Here is a link to the national autism association on this. 

We had similar experience with CAHMs. 
I read an expert opinion that young people cannot engage in individual therapy till they are at least 85% weight for height and this has been our experience. My D was hysterical, highly agitated and angry after therapy sessions. We learnt to anticipate this which made it easier. Although she still has a way to go weight wise, her mental state is now much better and she engages with therapist and often seems to find sessions helpful. 



Courage is not the absence of despair; it is rather the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair

Please don’t worry yourself unnecessarily. I feel that professionals default to this position sometimes. Our D was also tested as CAMHS thought same....not autistic. 

That was not before I had researched it and convinced myself we were doomed in terms of recovery. I could have saved myself some sleepless nights had I not done that. The symptoms of AN present like autism in a lot of cases. 

My daughter also had crazy behaviors when sick. She slept with an alarm clock and woke up every morning at 530. She had panic attacks if she came home from school 5 minutes late and had to eat 5 minutes of schedule. Everything went away with time and food. 
Thank you everyone for your responses, it is reassuring. We'll just have to keep going with re-feeding and hope things improve. In the end we also agreed to trying olanzapine to help calm her at night so she can get some sleep. Hopefully that will help too. 
I know at least 5 families here (mine included) that was told that by the professionals as many of their behaviour is so similiar with autism. But autism is normally diagnosed at a quite young age and not (as here) about 17 or so.
All this "autistic" behaviour slowly faded away after WR. Food and time.
It is nearly impossible to diagnose autism with a full blown AN child I think. You will ever know what is AN and what not. They are doing very strange things and that is all AN...
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Raising hand as one more mom who first noticed autistic traits during refeeding, which disappeared after.  xx

"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 

Exact same situation with us. 14yrs D never engaged with talk therapy at CAMHS. Been refeeding since May and she is now weight restored, 106% and eating really well apart from fear foods that we are working on. However her anxiety is still really high and she has been off school since October. We are being referred into CAMHS neurodevelopmental pathway for ASD (autism spectrum disorder). I never thought of ASD until the therapist mentioned it but looking back over time I realise she has had anxiety since being very young. I’m not sure she has ASD but want to go along with the assessment as I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. As always, whatever happens with the assessment anorexia is the dangerous condition which is still there in her mind so the food will continue to be piled in. 

Loads of kids have ASD but don’t restrict on food - our kids have that predisposition to ED so whatever other conditions they have - we need to remember the ED is the dangerous life threatening one

Another one here where the possibility of both autism and borderline personality disorder was raised when ill. Prior to ED this was not something that ever would have crossed my mind, but when ill and malnourished there was a lot of second guessing. My D also lost all of these traits once she was regularly nourished, so it definitely goes with the condition. 
There have been a few parents whose child was diagnosed with autism well after ED, I know that @MarcellaUK had a daughter diagnosed in her 20's. From memory there were some traits prior to ED but no clear diagnosis. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
Yes, our d was diagnosed with ASD in her late 20s years after her AN diagnosis but had we had that document from the NAS and had there been more awareness of autism in girls her dentist and reception teacher could have diagnosed her at 6. Her autism complicated her treatment. Autistic treats in the rest of the family were probably even more of a problem! If your child exhibited any features before starvation (I think that the NAS list is very useful) then it may well be that this should be a consideration in treatment, but it  shouldn't make any difference to its main aim, full nutritional rehabilitation. AN exacerbates many traits normally associated with ASD and MANY of those who have been thought to have it find that with full restoration of physical health ALL traits disappeared. 
Fiona Marcella UK
You made the perfect distinction @Hendrixt!

ED is the dangerous illness and that is the scary part. 
Mum's Kitchen

14-y-o "healthy living" led to AN in 2017 and WR at 16. Current muscle dysmorphia.
Ditto our son, but he IS autistic... The 2 conditions mirror each other and exacerbate the presentations... 
Just keep feeding! Food IS the answer... Sending love and strength. Xx
Hi joanne,

My son, too, was given a provisional diagnosis of ASD while malnourished. He had few social issues growing up, well, no more than your average introvert! The professional team got it into their heads that he was on the spectrum and saw everything through that lens to the extent that they wanted to start him on a treatment program for ASD and forgot to ensure he actually ate and he went down to BMI11 IP! We took him home against their advice and refed him using the support of a wonderful paediatrician and this site. He is back to himself and everyone can see that it was ED all along.

Here are another few threads where parents and teams have wondered about ASD vs ED
Autism and anorexia
Anorexia and ASD
Possible ASD diagnosis

You are on the right track to keep on feeding, no matter what. I hope the Olaxapine helps with both the eating and sleeping.

Warm wishes,

2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
Thank you again. I agree that for all I know there could be some underlying ASD however the behaviours associated with that only really appeared with the ED so the anorexia definitely needs to be addressed first. 
Good decision! If there is something left afterwards, there is enough time to work on that then.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.