ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) often involves limitations and restrictions around food, particularly around the intake of certain types of food or certain amounts. It is also known as “Selective Eating” and can be misconstrued as ‘picky eating’.
ARFID is classified by a rejection of certain foods often due to a sensitivity in taste, texture, smell, appearance or temperature. Unlike other eating disorders (like Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder) it doesn’t typically involve distress around body image or a pursuit of thinness.
Over the years, there has been increasing research and connections with autism and ARFID, due to sensory sensitivity.
ASD can be present in about 10-16% of people with anorexia nervosa, while 40% of clients with AN can have several ASD traits, and in 12% of clients with ARFID.
Someone suffering with ARFID may struggle with food avoidance, eating around others and socialising. Individuals may also suffer from serious nutritional deficiencies, weight loss in adults and stunted growth in children.
There is no one way to have ARFID and symptoms will present differently from person to person. If you have been diagnosed with ARFID or feel you may be struggling with some of the symptoms, here are three things below to keep in mind for your recovery…
1) There are people who understand and who can support you
ARFID is commonly misunderstood, which can cause emotional distress and frustration when seeking eating disorder treatment. What we want you to know is that there is specialist support available from professionals who genuinely care and who will listen.
At Orri, our approach is to heal the “whole person” following a tailored and stepped approach, centred around the recovery needs of the individual person. We have team members who are trained in the treatment of ARFID, where considerations of sensory settings and ASD diagnosis, are catered for with kindness and compassion at the core.
This includes consideration for how your loved ones and family feature in your recovery. Find out more how the family therapy team can work with you.
2) Grant yourself patience and understanding
Living with an eating disorder is exhausting. Sometimes waking up each day in recovery can feel tiring and demotivating – that is ok. Recovery is full of ups and downs and also very much about acknowledging that there are and will be difficult days – even when recovered. So, be patient with yourself. You may not have it all figured out and this is ok – each step (backwards or forwards) is an opportunity for growth.
Recovery might feel like you’re diving in head first, but you can still take things slowly and start small. Start with an email to a treatment facility or by booking an appointment with your GP. In this way, you get the ball rolling without throwing yourself into the deep end where it may feel overwhelming or too much too soon.
3) Put your recovery first!
Many people who reach out to Orri feel ambivalent about recovery. They know that something’s not quite right about their relationship to food and eating, but they’re also very fearful of change. Even if that change means something positive.
If you’ve lived with ARFID for a long time, it might be hard to understand what ‘normal’ eating is for you – but we’re here to explore it together. However scary this may seem, treatment can help you to live a full life.