Exploring the role of autistic traits and eating disorder psychopathology on mentalising ability in the general population

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Fithall, Kate, Gray, Indigo E, Linardon, Jake, Phillipou, Andrea, Donaldson, Peter H, Albein-Urios, Natalia, Enticott, Peter G, Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, Matthew ORCID: 0000-0003-1145-6057 and Kirkovski, Melissa ORCID: 0000-0003-3395-8525 (2023) Exploring the role of autistic traits and eating disorder psychopathology on mentalising ability in the general population. BMC Psychology, 11. ISSN 2050-7283


Background: This study evaluated the role of overlapping traits and characteristics related to autism spectrum disorder (autism) and anorexia nervosa (AN) in the general population, and the impact of these traits on mentalising ability. Methods: A sample of young adults (N = 306), aged 18–25 years, was recruited to complete an online study that consisted of 4 measures: the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, the Mentalization Scale, and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes task. Results: Higher levels of autistic traits, particularly difficulty with attention switching, were associated with increased eating disorder psychopathology. Overall, autistic traits and eating disorder psychopathology were related among females, but not males. Difficulty with attention switching, however, was related to eating disorder psychopathology among both females and males. Autistic traits also appear to have a greater role in mentalising ability than does eating disorder psychopathology. Conclusion: The role of attention switching in overlapping traits of autism and eating disorder psychopathology needs to be more comprehensively evaluated by future research, as does the role of biological sex. Expanded knowledge in this field will help to better understand and evaluate symptoms at presentation, leading to clearer diagnoses and potentially better treatment outcomes.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/47139
DOI 10.1186/s40359-023-01306-z
Official URL https://bmcpsychology.biomedcentral.com/articles/1...
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3202 Clinical sciences
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords autism spectrum disorder, ASD, eating disorder, anorexia, mentalizing ability
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