A Source of Fear and Anxiety
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID, was previously known as selective eating disorder. Professionals thought that it only affected infants and children. However, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders renamed it and broadened the criteria. It now includes adults who restrict their food intake and who struggle with related mental or physical issues. Those who suffer from ARFID often find aspects of certain foods intolerable. This can include texture, smell, or appearance. They might also have a phobia of certain foods. Some have a lack of interest in food entirely, eating only when absolutely necessary. This may sound like anorexia nervosa on the surface. However, anorexia includes some type of body dysmorphia or an obsession with weight loss. With ARFID, the food itself – not the calories it contains or the imagined consequences of eating it – is a source of fear and anxiety.
Signs of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder appears to be a type of picky eating. However, it differs in that the limitation of food becomes extreme enough to start affecting a person’s life. This is usually through a nutritional deficiency or psychosocial issues. They may show physical signs similar to other eating disorders such as dry skin, brittle nails, or constantly feeling cold all. These are all signs of malnutrition. On the other hand, they may avoid meals with family and friends or complain of a mysterious gastrointestinal issue around mealtimes. Because the behavioral range of this eating disorder is so broad, it is difficult pinpoint specific risk factors associated with the disease. However, people with autism spectrum conditions or with other mental health issues such as OCD and ADHD are more likely to develop ARFID, as are those with a history of trauma.
Some Good News
The good news is that avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is treatable. Research shows that modern therapeutics approaches such as cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy are effective, as in nutritional therapy. Exposure therapy, in which the client gradually receives a wider range of foods, has also been successful in treating ARFID, as has group and family counseling. If you or someone you love is suffering from avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, please consider contacting Ocean Recovery today. We include CBT, DBT, nutritional counseling and more in our individualized treatment plans, designed to put our clients in the best possible position for a lasting recovery. Call us today and start building your foundation for success.