Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a type of Eating and Feeding Disorder where an individual has difficulties meeting their nutritional needs due to fears or avoidance of adverse food experiences. ARFID is similar to anorexia in that both disorders involve limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed, but unlike anorexia, ARFID does not involve any distress about body shape or size or fears of fatness.
Many individuals may have a period of picky eating or food preferences that they stick to for a variety of reasons. Yet, an individual with ARFID does not consume enough calories to meet their nutritional needs, resulting in difficulties to maintain their basic body functions. Individual’s struggling with ARFID may experience the following symptoms related to this issue:
- Avoidance of food due to fears of adverse sensations or experiences. These can be overall sensorial experiences or related to certain tastes, textures, smells, or consistencies of food
- Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children)
- Significant nutritional deficiency
- Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements
- Significant issues with constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, lethargy, and/or excess energy
- Consistent, vague gastrointestinal issues (“upset stomach”, feels full, etc.) around mealtimes that have no known cause
- Dramatic restriction in types or amount of food eaten
- Fears of choking or vomiting
- Social isolation and inability to eat around others
- Lack of appetite or interest in food
- Limited range of preferred foods that become narrower over time (i.e., picky eating that progressively worsens)
ARFID can develop at any point in an individual’s life. For children, this can result in not meeting important developmental milestones and failure in growth. When ARFID develops in adulthood, this can cause significant sudden weight loss.
In every case of ARFID, emotional and social issues related to the anxieties around food, there are also medical risks associated with lack of maintaining adequate nutritional intake that can have serious risks to one’s physical and psychological health.
We at The OCD & Anxiety Center specialize in the treatment of this Eating and Feeding Disorder and have the necessary training and resources to deliver evidence-based treatment for ARFID sufferers of all ages. We use Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) in the treatment of ARFID, as this is the therapy treatment which has proven most effective for a range of anxiety disorders and some eating disorders, such as ARFID. Through ERP, individuals with ARFID learn to face their anxious triggers while decreasing their use of worry to cope, helping them gradually increase their range of nutritional intake.
We also use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-e), along with Sequential Oral Sensorial (SOS) Approach to support feeding therapies alongside an interdisciplinary team approach to reestablish a healthier connection to food and resolve worries about eating to maintain a balanced lifestyle. We also work heavily with parents and incorporate them into the treatment process.
If you or someone you know would benefit from our specialized ARFID treatment services, please reach out to us at (630) 522-3124 today!