Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), often known as “extreme picky eating,” is an eating disorder characterized by very selective eating behaviors, disrupted feeding patterns or both. It typically leads to substantial dietary and energy deficits, and for children, the inability to gain weight.
Common eating and feeding problems for an individual with ARFID include trouble digesting food; avoidance of certain types of food textures, colors and scents; eating at an unusually slow speed or having a general lack of appetite.
ARFID is most frequent in babies and children, with some cases lasting into adulthood. Preliminary research shows that it may impact up to 5 percent of youngsters, with males being at increased risk for developing ARFID, according to Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.
Overall, an estimated 3.2 percent of the general population suffers from ARFID, including 14 percent to 22.5 percent of children in pediatric treatment services for any kind of eating problem (Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ARFID diagnostic criteria include:
The individual displays a disrupted eating experience that is related to one or more of the following:
- Nutritional deficiency as a result of insufficient intake of food
- Weight loss (adults) or inability to increase weight (children)
- Decrease in psychosocial function
- Depending on supplements to keep nutritional health
- The disrupted eating is not due to an explainable external reason, such as food being unavailable or in low supply.
- The individual does not have a skewed body image
The eating problem or dietary restriction is not a result of some other physical or mental disorder. For example, a person who loses weight because of the flu or food poisoning does not have an eating problem, therefore a diagnosis of ARFID would not be applicable.
Unlike cases of bulimia and anorexia, ARFID eating disorder does not generally entail negative body image, a wish to be thin or unhappiness with outward appearance. However, insufficient nutrition and calorie intake, especially among youngsters, can significantly impede development or prevent normal weight increase.
Types of ARFID
- Lack of interest: Individuals with this form of ARFID exhibit a real lack of interest in eating and food. They also get filled rapidly.
- Sensory Avoidance: People with sensory avoidance have difficulties with food flavors, textures, temperature and odors.
- Fear of Aversive Consequences: dread of sickness, choking, nausea and allergies
Read: Pica Disorder
Causes of ARFID
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder does not have one underlying cause; instead, researchers and clinicians have studied a number of probable contributing variables, such as biological, psychological and environmental effects.
- A kid who is already susceptible to ARFID owing to the biological or genetic composition may be activated by environmental or psychological circumstances, such as a traumatic experience.
- Since there can be disordered eating habits among other mental disorders, co-occurring conditions – such as anxiety disorders, developmental impairments, and autism may worsen – may also be present.
- In autism and other developmental disorders, a person’s relationship to their body and senses is already extremely heightened.
Check: Tardive Dyskinesia
Symptoms of ARFID
- Extreme pickiness in selecting food
- Anxiety when offered with “fear” foods
- For adults, losing weight; for children, inability to increase weight
- Dependence on dietary supplements, a feeding tube or both
ARFID warning signs
- Avoidance of certain foods, based on texture, color, taste, fragrance, food groupings etc.
- Frequent vomiting or gagging following exposure to certain meals
- Difficulty chewing food
- Lack of appetite
- Trouble digesting particular types of meals
- Consumption of exceedingly tiny amounts
- Depending on external feeding tubes or dietary supplements
- Social isolation
Read: Binge Eating Disorder
What problems can happen with ARFID?
There is a possibility that ARFID can cause nutritional problems. This disorder can lead to the following symptoms in kids:
- Getting too few vitamins, minerals, and proteins
- Tube feeding is required, as well as nutrition supplements
- Experiencing delayed puberty
- Obesity or overweight occurs
There are several health consequences associated with ARFID’s lack of nutrition:
- Low blood pressure causes dizziness and fainting
- Weakened bones and muscles (osteoporosis)
- Menstrual periods stopped (amenorrhea)
Risk factors for ARFID
- Weight Loss
- Developmental delays
- Co-occurring anxiety disorders
Health risks of ARFID
- Failure to increase weight (children)
- Gastrointestinal complications
Because of avoidant restrictive food intake disorder’s distinctive character – and occurrence among young people – an extensive and specific treatment strategy is needed in most situations.
Walden Behavioral Care offers individualized ARFID therapy for people and families suffering from ARFID. Treatment involves unique pediatric and adolescent programming, both incorporating family-based treatment, which has been found to decrease disordered behavior, lead to a more balanced diet and increase long-term recovery rates.
What can parents do to help?
ARFID is associated with strong emotions and food-related worries. Maintain a positive attitude towards exercise and nutrition at home by being supportive and encouraging. Here are some tips to help:
- Set an example for others. Variety is key when serving and eating food.
- Make sure you eat and snack regularly.
- Eat regular meals as a family. Maintain a pleasant mood at mealtimes and avoid tension.
- Don’t force your child to eat new foods; encourage him or her to try new ones.
- Reward healthy eating habits.
- Stress and anxiety around food can be managed by finding ways to manage them. Take a few deep breaths with your child to help them relax. You can manage stress by practicing yoga, meditation, listening to music, creating art, dancing, writing, or talking to a friend.
Call your doctor for advice if you think your child might have an eating disorder. Children and teens with eating disorders can be helped by nutrition and mental health professionals recommended by their doctor.
Please feel free to contact a doctor if you or a loved one is experiencing difficulties. The Treatment programs at Center for Discovery specialize in eating disorder treatment, therapy, and dual diagnosis treatment, with customized treatment plans for each client to start them on the road to eating disorder recovery.