What is ARFID?
(Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)
ARFID is short for Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. It’s an eating or feeding disturbance involving limitations in the amounts and or types of food consumed. It is a relatively new diagnosis in the DSM-5, previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder.”
Unlike some better-known diagnoses, such as Anorexia Nervosa, ARFID symptoms do not include body image dissatisfaction or the desire to lose weight.
Who struggles with ARFID?
People of all genders and age groups can struggle with ARFID although, notably, ARFID is most often developed by individuals with autism spectrum conditions or ADHD.
Most people with ARFID have an internal list of “safe foods” they find acceptable to eat. These safe foods usually consist of bland or monochromatic “comfort” foods such as bread, french fries, sweets, chicken nuggets, noodles, and cereal. So long as they have access to these safe foods, individuals with ARFID experience great difficulty and lack of interest in trying other foods.
ARFID Symptoms and Signs of Risk
- apparent lack of interest in food
- the individual frequently reports being cold
- avoid food based on sensory characteristics (often presents as “picky eating”)
- have concerns about the physical consequences of eating (i.e. nausea)
- significant weight loss
- nutritional deficiencies
- difficulty concentrating/learning
- impaired immune functioning
- limited food variety
- fear of choking, vomiting, or getting sick
- elevated anxiety
- dependence on nutritional supplements
ARFID treatment includes an emphasis on nutrition education and experiential practices designed to promote greater food tolerance. Recovery is possible and requires specialized, multidisciplinary care from a trusted treatment team that not only understands the uniqueness of ARFID recovery but is qualified to treat clients’ comorbidities, such as anxiety disorders.
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