Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): The Struggle is Real

Written by: Kirstin Schafer, Psy.D., Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): The Struggle is Real

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): The Struggle is Real

It’s hard to concentrate on anything else when you’re feeling hungry. Your stomach aches and grumbles, but the thought of food makes you feel nauseous. You don’t know what to eat or how even to start eating again. This is just one of the many challenges you face with ARFID. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is a real struggle that’s often misunderstood. People think you’re just picky or not that hungry.

But the reality is that you’re dealing with a lot of anxiety and fear around food. It’s hard to know what will trigger your gag reflex or make you feel sick. So you often err on the side of caution, which means you’re not getting the nutrients your body needs. This can lead to other health problems, on top of the daily battle of managing ARFID.

It’s a constant challenge, but you’re not alone. There are others out there fighting the same battle. And together, we can help raise awareness and understanding of this disorder.

1. Educate yourself about ARFID

2. Find a support group or therapist who understands ARFID

3. Be patient with yourself as you work through your disorder

4. Take small steps towards reintroducing food into your diet

5. Avoid trigger foods as much as possible

6. Seek professional help if needed

ARFID, or Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is a relatively new diagnosis characterized by an avoidance of certain foods due to a fear of negative consequences. People with ARFID may be afraid of choking, vomiting, or gaining weight. As a result, they may restrict their diets to a very limited range of foods or avoid eating altogether. ARFID is often comorbid with other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, OCD, and an autism spectrum disorder. It is estimated that 1-5% of the population suffers from ARFID, making it one of the most common eating disorders.

Eating Disorder

While it can affect people of all ages, it is most common in children and adolescents. ARFID can lead to serious health complications, including malnutrition and even death, if left untreated. Treatment for ARFID typically includes therapy and nutrition counseling. With treatment, people with ARFID can learn to cope with their fear and expand their diets. If you or someone you know is struggling with ARFID, help is available.

How do I know if I have ARFID?

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ARFID is a little-known but potentially serious eating disorder. It stands for Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and it can cause people to miss out on essential nutrients and suffer from weight loss. ARFID is often mistaken for anorexia, but the two disorders are quite different. Whereas fear of gaining weight characterizes anorexia, ARFID is characterized by a fear of food itself. This can be due to a previous bad experience with food, such as choking or vomiting. It can also be due to a sensory issue, such as a dislike of the smell, taste, or texture of certain foods.

If you think you or someone you know may have ARFID, it’s critical to see a doctor or mental health professional for an assessment. ARFID can be difficult to overcome on your own, but with treatment, it is possible to start enjoying food again.

What are the symptoms of ARFID?

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ARFID symptoms can include weight loss, fatigue, nausea, and lightheadedness. If you think you may be suffering from ARFID, it is important to speak to a doctor or mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Is there a cure for ARFID?

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While there is no known cure for ARFID, treatment options are available to help people cope with the disorder. For example, therapy can help people understand their triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to treat associated anxiety or depression. With appropriate treatment, people with ARFID can learn to manage their disorder and enjoy a healthier relationship with food.

While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for ARFID, the disorder can be effectively treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with ARFID identify and challenge negative thoughts about food, while exposure therapy can gradually help them overcome their fears. In addition, medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help manage anxiety and make it easier to cope with difficult emotions. With treatment, people with ARFID can learn to enjoy eating again and live everyday, healthy lives.

Can trauma cause ARFID?

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While the exact causes of ARFID are not yet known, evidence suggests that a traumatic event can trigger it. For example, a study of college students found that those who had experienced a traumatic event were more likely to develop ARFID. Additionally, some experts believe that genetic and environmental factors may cause ARFID.

While more research is needed to confirm these theories, it is clear that ARFID can be a severe and complex condition with various potential causes. If you or someone you know is struggling with ARFID, it is important to seek professional help. With treatment, ARFID can be managed, and people can learn to enjoy food again.

Can children grow out of ARFID?

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The good news is that children with ARFID can and do recover. Most children can eventually expand their diet and return to a healthy weight with treatment. However, the road to recovery can be long and difficult. Children with ARFID often need help from a team of specialists, including doctors, dietitians, and mental health professionals. But with patience and care, children with ARFID can grow out of this condition and live healthy and happy lives.

It is vital to find a treatment center that offers a comprehensive approach to care, including individualized therapy, nutrition counseling, and medical monitoring. The staff at the treatment center should be able to answer any questions you have about the treatment process and make you feel comfortable and safe.

The professionals at Springsource Psychological are here to support you through your journey to wellness. Contact us today at 224-202-6260 and let us help you find the relief you deserve.