Is ARFID an eating disorder?
People who experience difficulties with eating which are unrelated to body image concerns, are often living with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). People with ARFID eat a very limited variety or amount of food and it causes problems in their lives. Individuals living with ARFID can be supported to improve their eating in a way that significantly improves the variety of foods they eat, the regularity of their eating and the nutritional adequacy of their diet. This has spin-off effects which improve pathology results including vitamin deficiencies, cognitive function, physical function and social engagement.
An ARFID diagnosis would guide an ARFID-affected indvidual into the appropriate support for managing and treating their eating disorder, but the diagnosis itself is not essential. ARFID could be diagnosed from any one (or a combination) of the following important concerns:
- People who suffer from ARFID may find that new foods have strange or intense tastes, textures or smells or they feel safer eating foods they know well.
- Others with ARFID have had scary experiences with food like vomiting, choking, allergic reaction, or experiencing pain after eating, so they may insistently avoid the foods that made them feel this way, and limit themselves to safe foods.
- Whilst others with ARFID don't feel hungry very often, they find that eating is a chore, are disinterested in food, or get full very quickly, so end up skipping meals and eating inadequately.
People with ARFID can fall into one, two or three of these concerns. In any case, there is often a strong influence of overwhelming anxiety, which can have significant consequences for one's food variety and eating adequacy. Low body weight, nutrient deficiencies, lethargy, and interference with psychological and social functioning can all be common outcomes for people with ARFID. Despite these significant impairments, treatment of ARFID is possible and involves carefully guided food exposures, with concurrent anxiety management and strategic nutritional rehabilitation.
If you are concerned about how ARFID might be affecting you, contact us for more information.