Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ARFID is not just "picky eating". People with ARFID may avoid certain colors, textures, smells, tastes, or temperatures in foods, or they might have a lack of interest in eating.
Importantly, ARFID is not linked to concerns about body image, unlike many other eating disorders. Instead, it's associated with a range of issues, such as a lack of interest in eating or food, avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food, and concerns about aversive consequences (like choking or vomiting).
ARFID can affect individuals across all genders, ages, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. It can lead to significant nutritional deficiencies, weight loss or failure to gain weight in children, and can interfere with social functioning.
Limited Variety in Diet: Your diet is highly selective, based on food textures, types, or brands, and you're unable to eat many foods that others do.
Nutritional Deficiencies: You have nutritional deficiencies or other medical conditions such as anemia or low bone density due to a restricted diet.
Weight Loss or Poor Development: You're losing weight or not gaining expected weight during development, or a child's growth trajectory is compromised.
Dependence on Supplements: You're dependent on oral nutritional supplements or tube feeding in the absence of a medical condition that would require such supplementation.
Social Impairment: You avoid social situations where food is present, causing significant stress and interference in your life.
Psychologists and other mental health professionals play a crucial role in treating ARFID. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is commonly used to address fears and avoidance behaviors related to food. This treatment involves exposure to feared foods, and challenging beliefs and behaviors around eating.
Family-based treatment can be particularly helpful for children and adolescents with ARFID. This approach empowers parents to support their child to expand their diet.
Additionally, interdisciplinary care is important for managing ARFID. Nutritionists can provide education and meal planning, while physicians monitor physical health and medication if needed.
If you or a loved one is struggling with the challenges posed by ARFID, please know that you're not alone and help is available. Our team of empathetic and skilled psychologists is ready to assist you in breaking free from the fear and restrictions associated with food. Reach out to us today. Taking the first step towards nourishing healthier eating habits is just a phone call away. Together, we can achieve a more balanced, fulfilling relationship with food.