Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
What is ARFID?
ARFID is a new eating disorder diagnosis referenced in the DSM-5. Previously coined “Selective Eating”, it involves limitations and/or restrictions around food, particularly around the intake of certain types of food or certain amounts.
Unlike other eating disorder diagnoses (like Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder) it doesn’t typically involve distress around body image or a pursuit of thinness. Rather, it is classified by a rejection of certain foods often due to a sensitivity in taste, texture, smell, appearance or temperature.
ARFID can severely impact someone’s physical and mental health. Someone suffering with ARFID may struggle with socialising and eating around others, and suffer from serious nutritional deficiencies, weight loss in adults and stunted growth in children.
Whilst there’s no single cause, it may be that someone had a distressing experience whilst eating food – such as choking or vomiting – that harmed their relationship to food. Recently, there has been links made with Autism due to sensory sensitivity.
What are the common symptoms?
ARFID is understood as an umbrella term for a range of difficulties with eating and types of food. Whilst there’s no “one way” to have ARFID, there are common behavioural and psychological symptoms that help in its diagnosis:
- Avoiding particular types of food
- Not eating enough food to be nutritionally healthy and satisfied
- Displaying a lack of interest in food or lack of appetite – sometimes missing meals altogether when distracted
- Taking a long time over mealtimes
- Only eating certain textures of food and maintaining a limited range of options
- Anxious around mealtimes
- Avoiding eating in social scenarios
- Fears choking or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Stunted growth in children
- Developing nutritional deficiencies
How do you treat ARFID?
Like with other eating disorder diagnoses, Orri believes that recovery from ARFID is possible and that treatment should heal the individual as a whole; embracing his or her complexity and unique history. We heal the underlying cause by providing individuals with the tools they need to recover – recognizing that everyone is different and therefore everyone’s experience of an eating disorder will be different.
Our particular area of focus is specialist day treatment through a stepped approach. By taking a stepped approach, we can provide the right level of support as individuals maintain their careers, go to school or university, and return to their lives alongside recovery. It’s this flexibility and emphasis on collaboration that makes our approach unique.
What should I do if I think that I, or a loved one, may have it?
If your relationship towards food is negatively impacting your life, you deserve specialist support. Reach out to us today and we’ll see how we can help.
Last updated by Kerrie Jones, Clinical Director of Orri, in September 2019.
Recovery from ARFID is possible. We’re here, just reach out.
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