Anorexia nervosa and autism spectrum disorders: guided investigation of social cognitive endophenotypes

Psychol Bull. 2007 Nov;133(6):976-1006. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.133.6.976.


Death by suicide occurs in a disproportionate percentage of individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), with a standardized mortality ratio indicating a 57-fold greater risk of death from suicide relative to an age-matched cohort. Longitudinal studies indicate impaired social functioning increases risk for fatal outcomes, while social impairment persists following recovery. Study of social cognition in AN may elucidate impaired processes that may influence therapeutic efficacy. Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are overrepresented in those who evidence a chronic course. Relative to that in AN, social information processing in ASD is well characterized and may inform systematic study in AN. This article (a) reviews impaired interpersonal processes in AN, (b) compares the phenotype of AN with that of ASD, (c) highlights deficits of social cognitive disturbance in ASD relative to AN, and (d) proposes a new framework to understand the interaction of individuals with AN with their social context.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Phenotype*
  • Social Perception*