What is ARFID?
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by a disturbance in eating or feeding behaviors that results in significant weight loss, nutritional deficiency, or difficulty maintaining a normal day-to-day life. ARFID was previously known as selective eating disorder (SED) but was renamed to more accurately encompass the disorder.
ARFID can affect individuals of any age, race, gender, or any other demographic categorization. ARFID often co-occurs with other mental health diagnoses such as anxiety disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Like any other eating disorder, ARFID is not a choice and is considered to be a severe illness that requires professional treatment. It is also important to note that ARFID does not stem from a lack of access to food and is not related to an individual’s cultural upbringing.
What makes ARFID different from anorexia?
ARFID is often confused with anorexia due to the weight loss associated with the illness and the pattern of restrictive eating. However, those suffering from ARFID do not share the same desire for thinness or body dysmorphic thoughts that those with anorexia experience. To note this difference, someone with ARFID may abstain from eating due to tastes and textures of foods being intolerable as opposed to someone with anorexia who may abstain from eating due to a desire to lose weight and alter their body shape.
ARFID signs and symptoms
Those with ARFID may suffer from serious consequences due to the inability to meet adequate nutritional needs, so it is essential that ARFID is treated promptly and properly. Signs and symptoms of ARFID may include:
- Notable weight loss
- Failure to meet nutritional needs
- Stunted growth
- Stomach problems without reason
- Restriction of certain foods due to taste, smell, or texture
- Lack of interest in food
- Fear of choking or vomiting upon eating
- No body dysmorphia or drive for thinness
- Medical complications such as anemia, low potassium levels, slow heart rate, dizziness, muscle weakness, and dry skin
ARFID risk factors
Those at risk of developing ARFID include:
- Individuals who are on the autism spectrum
- Those with ADHD
- Children who experience severe picky eating that does not improve with time
- Individuals who have anxiety disorders or OCD
Treatment for ARFID
Like any other eating disorder, ARFID requires specialized care. Due to ARFID’s complex nature and the wide variety of ways it may present in an individual, it is important that those suffering from ARFID receive specialized care. It is recommended that those who believe they are suffering from ARFID (or for those who believe a loved one is suffering) bring up the concern with their doctor.
An individual’s primary care doctor may address their patient’s concerns about disordered eating and present them with treatment options. However, we know this may not always be the case. If a knowledgeable primary care doctor is not available, we suggest individuals suffering from disordered eating reach out to an eating disorder treatment center. By reaching out to a treatment center such as The Emily Program, individuals can undergo an eating disorder assessment and gain more insight into their food and eating behaviors. From this assessment, a treatment plan will be recommended and recovery can begin.
While ARFID may be lesser known than other eating disorders, it is equally as serious and worthy of treatment. Those struggling can reach out to us at The Emily Program to begin recovery today. You can complete an online quiz or call us to discuss treatment options at 1-888-364-5977.