What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

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  • On May 5, 2022
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  • ARFID, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Do I have an Eating Disorder, East Texas, East Texas Eating Disorders, Eating Disorder Help, Eating Disorder Treatment, Eating Disorders, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, Virtual therapy

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a very misunderstood eating disorder. Often this eating disorder is dismissed as “Oh! That person is just a really picky eater.” While picky eating can be common through some phases of life, ARFID is often more serious and pervasive and it is generally something a person won’t just “grow out of” without treatment. So, what is ARFID? This is a great question. Let’s start by discussing what it is and dispelling a few myths about ARFID.

ARFID is generally signified by a sudden refusal to eat foods that were once enjoyed. Often (but not always) people with ARFID often struggle with a fear of vomiting or choking. There are also typically sensory struggles around food. In my treatment of ARFID as at East Texas Eating Disorder Specialists I have also noticed that my clients with ARFID often use sensory or texture descriptions of food. Some people with ARFID simply state they have little to no appetite most of the time. These people struggle to maintain appropriate nutrition status and are at risk for severe medical complications, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, struggle in growth or delayed growth, and many of the other complications that we see with other eating disorders. It is imperative that, if you struggle with ARFID (regardless of body size) you seek out medical intervention and eating disorder treatment.

When we think of ARFID we typically think it only impacts adolescents. While ARFID does seem to be more common in younger people, we have treated many adult cases of ARFID. ARFID is so complex because there are several different types. Each type will present a little differently.

People with Avoidant type ARFID generally avoid foods of certain textures, tastes, or colors. These people are often very aware of the textures and smells of foods and notice the appearance of food in a way that presents a barrier for them to eat. Often they describe foods as “mushy” “smelly” or “disgusting.”

Aversive ARFID is generally tied to an averse food experience- this could be a choking incident, a vomiting incident, or any episode that has placed a fear element in the eating process.

Restrictive ARFID is usually present when an individual experiences extreme pickiness and little to low motivation to eat regularly. These are often people who will forget about eating completely.

Adult ARFID can encompass one or more of these categories that can be found among the adult population.

ARFID Plus is a type of ARFID where the patient will begin to experience the symptoms of one or more of the above subtypes of ARFID alongside an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

We share all of this with you so that you know that ARFID is a very complex issue. With a complex treatment.

ARFID does not just impact children.

ARFID is not just another word for a “bratty/picky child that won’t eat (we would never call a child bratty anyway!).”

No amount of screaming and yelling will get a person struggling with ARFID to eat, in fact this is likely to further the problem.

In spite of what your aunt/grandma/neighbor may tell you about “your child will eat when they are hungry/they won’t starve” with ARFID kids this is FALSE. They will often become severely malnourished.

ARFID impact all ages, races, genders, and people.

ARFID can make such a huge impact on a persons life and the lives of their families. These are people who can’t eat out with friends, can’t go to birthday parties, can’t live their lives.

ARFID can include body image issues, especially if parents/friends/relatives make comments on the persons body like “you look good, are you losing weight!” Even if the persons intention was not weight loss, this reinforces that what they are doing is okay. If you or someone you love struggles with ARFID please tell others to never comment on people’s bodies.

This all sounds so complicated, and it is. But we promise you there is hope. At East Texas Eating Disorder Specialists we have walked beside individuals and families who struggle with ARFID and helped them find freedom. Call us today if you suspect you or someone you love has ARFID we serve clients through Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. We would love to help you on this journey.

If you are curious about ARFID treatment please stay tuned for our next Blog.

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