Signs, Symptoms & Treatments
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), often thought of as “extreme picky eating,” is characterized by disturbances related to eating or feeding which may result in significant weight loss, nutritional deficiencies or interference with day-to day life. Individuals with ARFID typically avoid food due to sensory characteristics, fear-based experiences (fear of choking, vomiting, gagging, swallowing) and low interest in eating. Affecting all races and genders, individuals with ARFID commonly experience co-occurring psychiatric conditions such as anxiety disorders (especially OCD and trauma-related disorders) and neurodevelopmental disorders.
Is It Really an Eating Disorder?
We live in a culture with rigid ideals about food, weight and size, so it can be difficult to recognize when your thoughts and behaviors have become dangerous. Take a quiz and find out.
Characteristics of ARFID
Individuals with ARFID often struggle with the fear of food and/or the consequences of consuming it. They often have very limited foods they are willing to consume and, therefore, are at risk for malnutrition due to a lack of variety in nutrient intake. Those with ARFID differ from individuals with other eating disorders as they do not struggle with issues around body image.
ARFID Warning Signs
ARFID can have serious medical consequences including malnutrition, chemical imbalance and an overall loss of energy and vitality. ARFID is a serious eating disorder which can be fatal. Key signs you or someone you know may be struggling with ARFID include:
- Restricting the types or amounts of food consumed
- Issues with certain food textures
- Constant fear of choking or vomiting
- Lack of appetite or interest in food
- Limited variety of preferred foods that narrows over time
How to Help Someone with ARFID
Individuals with eating disorders deserve and require professional evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. Parents, family or friends—in collaboration with a mental health professional—can play an active and essential role in restoring healthy eating. Reach out to a Renfrew Program Information Specialist to schedule a FREE assessment or to learn more about our services.
Effectively Treating ARFID
Normalizing eating behaviors in individuals with any eating disorder is an essential step in treatment. ARFID treatment must start with a thorough understanding of the root cause of food avoidance. Exposure therapy is used to address sensory aversions and feared-based avoidances.
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