Are you a picky eater? Are there certain foods or food groups that you just can’t or won’t eat? Sometimes preferences are based upon the taste, color, texture, smell, or texture of food. Sometimes you dislike foods because of the food’s source or food group. People who love you may have voiced concerns. It might seem easier to just eat alone. Extreme preferences can become an obsession, consuming a lot of your thought, emotional energy, and time. They can lead to isolation and contribute to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance addiction. Obsessing about your food might be getting in the way of your relationships with family and friends.
If these symptoms sound familiar to you, you might be suffering from an eating disorder called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). ARFID can lead to low body weight or dramatic weight loss, problems with digestion, and other serious medical complications. But it is possible to heal your relationship with food, to eat a balanced diet and enjoy the foods you eat. You can heal your body and mind. ARFID treatment is available and recovery is possible. We can help.
ARFID: What is it?
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) was introduced as a new diagnostic category in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), edited by the American Psychiatric Association. This disorder used to be called Selective Eating Disorder (SED), but the name has been refined along with the new diagnostic clarity. There are sub-categories identified for ARFID:
- Sensory-based avoidance (texture, smell, color, presentation)
- Low interest in consuming food
- Food is associated fears that have developed over certain experiences
Though many of ARFID’s symptoms are also seen in other eating disorders, these particular patterns stand out. The onset of ARFID may occur in childhood and continue to adulthood. Due to very particular food rules, preferences, and fears, a person with ARFID will not consume enough calories or nutrition through their diet, regardless of the availability of foods. Weight loss and low body weight result. In children with ARFID, there is often a failure to gain weight, grow, or develop. ARFID is most often diagnosed during childhood. ARFID can continue into adolescence or adulthood, or it may begin in adulthood. Some symptoms of ARFID are associated with other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism, and other eating disorders. When specific food choices are associated with fears, a person presented with new or challenging foods will experience significant anxiety. Some ARFID sufferers also experience vomiting or choking.
People who struggle with ARFID experience a lack of interest in certain foods or they avoid them based upon the food’s sensory characteristics (taste, color, texture, smell, temperature, etc.). In this diagnosis, ARFID symptoms are not attributable to a different mental or physical disorder, and the disturbance in nutrition and physical consequences warrants medical and clinical attention. Those at higher risk for ARFID include people with autism spectrum conditions or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), children and adults who do not outgrow picky eating, and those who suffer from a co-occurring anxiety disorder or other psychiatric disorders.
Signs and Symptoms of ARFID include:
- Inability to eat certain foods based upon preferences or fears
- Exclude foods based upon color, smell, food group, texture, presentation, or temperature
- Gastrointestinal reactions to adverse foods (gagging, retching, vomiting)
- Lack of interest in consuming certain foods or tolerating it nearby
- Avoid social settings where food is a central part of the event
- Prefers eating alone
- Dramatic weight loss
- Constipation, abdominal pain, or other gastrointestinal issues
- Lack of appetite or interest in food
- No disturbance of body image or fear of weight gain
Side Effects of ARFID
The physical and psychological consequences of ARFID can be devastating, but treatment is possible. ARFID can lessen on its own, however, there is concern that other eating disorders, behavioral addictions, or physical consequences may develop.
ARFID treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional assessment and support, and medical assessment and treatment, when applicable. Systematic desensitization may also be helpful, particularly for children.
If you or a loved need ARFID treatment, contact Haven Hills Recovery’s caring, compassionate staff today. Whether you’re looking for IOP, PHP or structured living, Our evidence-based, holistic treatment for ARFID can put you or your loved one on a path toward recovery.