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Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

What is ARFID?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a relatively new subtype of Eating Disorder and was recognized in 2013.

It is an eating disturbance that is characterized by failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs that could lead to one of the following:

  1. Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children).

  2. Significant nutritional deficiency

  3. Dependence on enteral feeding (nutritional delivery via stomach, duodenum or jejunum) or oral nutritional supplements.

  4. Marked interference with psychosocial functioning

ARFID is not related to

  • Lack of available food

  • Associated with body weight or body image disturbance

  • Another medical or mental health condition that takes primary treatment focus

ARFID is also not simply “picky eating” because its symptoms highly interfere with one’s ability to function in their day-to-day lives. Individuals with ARFID may also experience significant anxiety when engaging in activities that involve food, such as going to restaurants with friends and family, attending parties, etc

What are my treatment options?

ARFID treatment involved a combination on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure therapy. Given that this is a disorder that involves nourishment and development, it might be important to work in collaboration with other providers, such as physicians, registered dietitians, speech language pathologists, and/or occupational therapists. I will provide you with guidance along your individualized treatment journey so you can hopefully feel more empowered in managing your difficulties with eating.

Understanding ARFID

Because ARFID was officially recognized in 2013, there is still much advocacy and awareness needed. This is a diagnosis that often comes with the stigma of it simply being "picky eating" and it can be extremely frustrating for a person to have to explain to others, including their loved ones, the incredible difficulty they experience with food. This is why I take a warm and understanding approach when treating clients who have ARFID and am well aware that it even goes beyond food - it impacts one's emotional well-being, can cause significant levels of anxiety, medical issues, it can also get in the way of one's social life, and there can be a lot of guilt surrounding symptoms. I take all of these factors in consideration during my sessions. There is hope!

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