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Towards a better understanding of autistic women’s eating disorder service experiences

Babb, Charlotte ORCID: 2022. Towards a better understanding of autistic women’s eating disorder service experiences. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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There is growing evidence to suggest that autistic women are overrepresented in populations of individuals with a restrictive eating disorder (ED). Recent research indicates that autistic women’s needs are not addressed by the available ED treatment options and clinicians working in ED services report lacking confidence treating autistic individuals. This thesis aims to explore autistic women’s experiences of an ED and its treatment within ED services through a series of qualitative and quantitative investigations. An examination of the current literature exploring service users’ perspectives of ED services (Chapter 2). The study highlights the importance of adopting individualised approaches to meet different needs. Chapter 3 specifically explores autistic women’s experiences of ED services via in-depth interviews with autistic women, parents, and healthcare professionals. Some similarities are drawn from Chapter 2, but Chapter 3 highlights the unique barriers that autistic women face when in treatment for an ED. The findings also suggest that the underpinnings of autistic women’s ED may differ from characteristics typically associated with an ED, such as body dissatisfaction. Chapter 4 compares traditional ED characteristics – namely pride in eating, body dissatisfaction and internalisation of the thin ideal (ITI) – in autistic women with an ED, non-autistic women with an ED and autistic women without an ED. Results suggest that autistic women with an ED present with significantly less body dissatisfaction and ITI than non-autistic women with an ED. Chapter 5 expands on these findings by exploring ITI and body dissatisfaction implicitly, finding similar patterns as in Chapter 4. Chapter 6 compares autistic and non-autistic women’s experiences of ED services, finding that autistic women consistently report poorer experiences than non-autistic women. In summary, this thesis presents evidence that highlights the individualised, autism-informed approach needed within ED services for autistic women and provides recommendations for services to implement such changes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Funders: Autistica
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 18 August 2022
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 11:50

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