The Distinct Presentation of Atypical Anorexia Nervosa

August 29, 2021

Individuals Suffering from the Condition Are Not Noticeably Thin

Somewhere between 20% to 33% of individuals with anorexia also hold an autism diagnosis. The overlap between these two conditions has been studied for decades with more research occurring each year. A recent article by the Child Mind Institute explores a type of anorexia that does not receive much attention and that caregivers of those with autism should be aware of. When most people think of anorexia nervosa, they picture a teenager or young adult who is severely underweight due to excessive dieting, which is driven by an intense fear of gaining weight. Atypical anorexia nervosa is different. Individuals with this condition are overweight to begin with, and then become obsessed with extreme dieting and exercising. They lose a dramatic amount of weight but don’t appear extremely thin due to their starting point. Therefore, their disorder often goes unnoticed. This is where atypical anorexia becomes dangerous.  People with this condition are just as physically compromised and medically fragile as those with anorexia, but they look healthy. Just like with regular anorexia, individuals with atypical anorexia suffer from low self-esteem, and almost half report self-harm and suicidal ideation. They are also just as likely as other anorexia patients to withdraw socially, and to have depression and anxiety, which are symptoms also very prevalent in autism. Atypical anorexia nervosa is on the rise. In 2008, the disorder counted for 20% of anorexia cases. In 2021, that rate was doubled to 40%. 

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