Qualitative studies report that autistic women have poor experiences when being treated for an eating disorder (ED) and express that ED services are not appropriately tailored to meet their needs. It is unclear whether their experience differs to other women accessing ED services. The aim of the current study was to compare autistic and non-autistic women’s ED illness history and experiences in ED services.
An online survey about ED illness history and their experience with ED treatment was completed by 46 autistic women with a restrictive ED and 110 non-autistic women with a restrictive ED.
Despite some similarities, there were three key differences in the experiences reported by autistic and non-autistic women. First, autistic women reported a longer duration of ED and being diagnosed with an ED at a younger age than non-autistic women. Second, autistic women reported accessing a broader range of healthcare settings and ED treatments than non-autistic women when being treated for an ED. Finally, autistic women rated their experiences of inpatient care, dietetic input, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as significantly less beneficial than non-autistic women when being treated for an ED.
These findings increase understanding of autistic women’s ED experience and can help to shape ED services and treatments to better accommodate the needs of their autistic clients.