What is ARFID? | Kati Morton

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ARFID or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder used to be called “selective eating disorder” but the DSM 5 changed it. While many children can go through a picky phase when it comes to what they want to eat, those with ARFID do not consume enough calories to develop or grow at the rate they are expected to. It can also cause issues for people at school or work because they will need more time to eat, and can be unable to participate in situations that involve food.
Now let’s get into what criteria needs to be met in order for someone to be diagnosed with ARFID:
An eating or feeding disturbance (either lack of interest in food or avoidance of food based on the sensory characteristics of it (like it’s too soft or we don’t like the texture of it…) and this is shown in our inability to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one or more of the following:
Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain/growth as a child)
Significant nutritional deficiency
Dependence on a feeding tube or oral nutritional supplements
Marked interference with psychosocial functioning (you can’t go to work or school or focus in your daily life. Your relationships may also suffer as a result)
The disturbance is not better explained by lack of available food or by an associated culturally sanctioned practice (fasting for Ramadan for example)
The eating disorder does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and there is no evidence of a disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced. This part is important! The difference between this and the other eating disorders is that with ARFID we don’t see ourselves is much heavier than we are or notice if we gain or lose weight. ARFID doesn’t’ have anything to do with our appearance.
Last, the eating disorder isn’t due to a concurrent medical condition or not better explained by another mental disorder (like OCD or another eating disorder). When the eating disturbance occurs in the context of another condition or disorder, the severity of the eating disturbance must exceed what is routinely associated with the condition or disorder and warrant extra attention.
While we all know that eating disorders can have many co-occurring issues (meaning that we can have more than one diagnosis at a time) and they find high correlations between those with ARFID and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Anxiety Disorders. They also report that children who were very picky as children are more likely to develop ARFID. And as always, everyone is going to be different. When it comes to mental health issues, there are so many factors to consider, so before we go jumping to any conclusions, please see a mental health professional (preferably one who specializes in eating disorders) and have them help you better understand what it is you are struggling with.
If we aren’t giving our body the nutrients it needs, our body will break down and it can be very uncomfortable not to mention very dangerous. So please reach out for help if you are struggling with this!
Exposure Therapy, CBT, DBT, and Intensive Outpatient or inpatient treatment (with groups, one on one therapy, supported meals, etc)
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