Eating disorders and social communication

Original presentation and abstract by Elisabet Wentz (University of Gothenburg, Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Gothenburg, Sweden) on eating disorders (ED) and social communication disorder (SCD), held at the ESCAP 2013 Congress in Dublin, Sunday 7th July 2013.

Image from the presentation of Dr Wentz.Abstract
Eating disorders (EDs) including anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and ED not otherwise specified, mainly affect females and the onset varies from prepubertal to adulthood. AN is the most feared ED with increased mortality and a high risk of a chronic course. Social communication disorder (SCD) is an impairment of pragmatics and is diagnosed based on difficulty in the social uses of verbal and nonverbal communication in naturalistic contexts, which affects the development of social relationships. Social communication in EDs has recently become a hot research area and most data, so far, is derived from AN studies. Starvation per se can cause poor social skills but retrospective data has shown that a subgroup of individuals with AN has social communication problems already during childhood, before AN onset. In Gothenburg prospective community based long-term follow-up studies of adolescent-onset AN have given us information on several aspects of social communication ranging from neuroanatomical correlates to neurocognitive profile and problems within the autism spectrum. Other studies imply that chronic cases of AN and BN exhibit a remarkably high prevalence of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism. Neuroimaging studies in AN individuals have shown deviant patterns similar to findings in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The cognitive style in EDs resembles ASD regarding flexibility, central coherence, and mentalising and persist in many cases after recovery. Research is also indicating that a subgroup of males with ED exhibit SCD premorbidly and in adult years after recovery from the ED per se.
Keywords: eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, social communication, autism, neuropsychology.

Download the full presentation here (pdf file, 19 slides).