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Levels of autistic traits in anorexia nervosa: a comparative psychometric study.

Abstract : BACKGROUND: A number of characteristics associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are over-represented among patients with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) as well as among relatives of these patients. Yet the co-occurrence of autistic traits in AN has not been fully explored and no previous study has directly compared self-reported evaluations of cognitive and socio-affective skills in AN and ASD. METHODS: We aimed to determine the degree of overlap between AN and ASD from scores on questionnaires classically used to measure ASD impairments. Fifteen AN participants, 15 ASD participants and two groups of matched controls completed a battery of self-reports measuring: autistic traits (Autism-Spectrum Quotient), empathy (Empathy Quotient-short and Interpersonal Reactivity Index), systemizing (Systemizing Quotient-short) and alexithymia (Bermond-Vorst Alexithymia Questionnaire-B). Univariate comparisons of mean totalled scores were performed on each measure (patients vs. controls, and AN vs. ASD), and a Principal Component Analysis was used to study subject proximities in a reduced-factor space constructed from AQ, BVAQ and IRI subscales. RESULTS: These analyses revealed similarities in a few cognitive domains (Attention Switching, Perspective Taking and Fantasy, lack of emotional introspection) and in some nonspecific affective dimensions (depression and feelings of distress), but also marked dissimilarities in social skills (the ability to communicate emotions to others, empathizing). CONCLUSION: The AN and ASD participants reported similar needs for sameness, and similar difficulties understanding their emotions and taking the perspective of another, but contrasting abilities to feel concerned in interpersonal situations. Our mixed findings encourage further exploration of transdiagnostic similarities and associations between these disorders.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 10:00:17 PM
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Annaig Courty, Anne Solène Maria, Christophe Lalanne, Damien Ringuenet, Christine Vindreau, et al.. Levels of autistic traits in anorexia nervosa: a comparative psychometric study.. BMC Psychiatry, BioMed Central, 2013, 13 (1), pp.222. ⟨10.1186/1471-244X-13-222⟩. ⟨inserm-00868766⟩



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