Have you ever noticed how much of an impact food has on our lives? No matter where we go or what we do, we never seem to be able to escape it. From school lunches to family dinners to social gatherings, food plays a major role in how we live our daily lives.
Also, we need it to keep our bodies alive and give us the needed nutrients to feed the body. But sometimes, things can get out of our control, resulting in conditions described as eating disorders. We are all familiar with anorexia and bulimia, but there is one that people rarely talk about.
It’s ARFID which is also known as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. So, in this article, we will focus a little on it.
What exactly is Avoidant/Restricted Food Intake (ARFID) disorder?
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a condition where people do not eat due to anxiety about how they feel after eating certain foods. This can result in weight loss or gain, lack of appetite, or stomach pain. It’s often associated with emotional distress, like depression or anxiety.
There aren’t any specific tests to diagnose ARFID, but doctors may look at things like medical history, past eating habits, and current symptoms, including the overall behavior and relationship with the food.
Treatment involves working with a psychiatrist to find out what triggers the person’s anxiety around food. Once identified, these triggers can then be avoided. People who have ARFID may need help learning healthier ways to cope with their emotions, rather than relying on food. For example, Clementine Programs are focused on this disorder and offer treatment for everyone who needs it.
Are children prone to ARFID?
Children and adolescents who suffer from such disorders usually show signs of anxiety and depression.
Many children and teenagers develop problems with their eating habits because they don’t enjoy the taste of certain types of food. This occurs due to various reasons ranging from personal preference to lack of exposure.
In some cases, these children become picky eaters, avoiding certain food groups altogether. The most common symptoms include a dislike of certain foods, skipping meals, overeating, gaining too much weight, and becoming overly concerned with body image.
What are the causes and symptoms of ARFID?
ARFID is a condition where children and/or do not eat enough food because they don’t want to eat certain foods and therefore starve themselves. This causes them to get smaller and thinner over time, and their body weakens, making them prone to infections and diseases.
The symptoms include not wanting to eat anything at all, refusing to eat even after being offered food, crying when someone tries to feed them, and vomiting when they eat. Many times, parents assume their child has a developmental disorder such as autism or ADHD, if not diagnosed on time.
Although ARFID is now recognized as a real disorder, it was often misdiagnosed as other disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Asperger Syndrome in the past.
Symptoms of ARFID may not immediately present themselves as a physical condition. A child’s eating habits may change over time without any apparent cause. As a parent, it is important to recognize these changes as they could indicate ARFID. If you are an adult, try to recognize some patterns or behaviors related to eating issues.
Some of the recognized symptoms are:
-Eating only small amounts of food at mealtimes
-Maintaining a rigid diet where foods are consumed in specific ways
-Avoiding certain foods due to their appearance or smell
-Refusal to eat foods that have been previously enjoyed
-Lack of interest in trying new foods
-Sensitivity to texture or temperature
-Extremely picky eater
-Unusual behaviors around food
-Aversion to certain textures, tastes, smells, temperatures, and/or colors
-Lack of appetite
-Decreased interest in food
-Unable to finish a meal
-Feeling full after eating only a few bites of food
But, why does it happens in the first place? Are there any triggers or reasons why someone would choose to simply stop eating?
A person with ARFID might be afraid of being fat, gaining weight, or having negative feelings if they eat a lot of food. It’s normal to feel nervous about eating some foods, especially big meals. But if those concerns become so severe that they interfere with daily activities, start to affect friendships, or make a person unable to control their behavior, then he or she could have ARFID.
Most of the time it’s related to the negative body image they have for themselves. Sometimes can be triggered by comments at school or at work, or the wish to look like a model or someone else we know.
One way to tell if someone has ARFID is to look at their eating habits. If a person starts to skip meals or eats smaller portions of food, but still feels hungry between meals, he or she may not have ARFID. However, if a person has trouble controlling his or her eating habits even though they’re getting enough calories, then he or she probably has ARFID.
What to do if you think you or someone you know has ARFID?
In general, it’s hard to recognize these things early, especially for yourself.
It’s important to speak to a doctor before trying any physical changes to improve eating habits. Doctors may recommend treatment options, such as counseling sessions to help patients learn to eat normally. In some cases, doctors may suggest medication to treat anxiety, depression, or other mental issues. These medications may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and mood stabilizers.
Additionally, your healthcare provider may ask questions about your family history, current emotional state, and whether you’ve ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder. You’ll also receive a psychiatric evaluation to determine if you need to take medication or talk therapy. Your doctor should refer you to an adult psychiatrist for treatment.
If it’s a child who suffers from ARFID, there is a different approach, so the children’s psychiatrist or psychologist should intervene if needed.
It’s a long process of healing, and sometimes they will need to change the whole approach until they find the right solution. Of course, the most important part is to collaborate (or encourage the child to do that) with the healthcare workers, so the treatment can be successful.
Every eating disorder is treatable when discovered early. Sadly, sometimes it’s impossible to do that, because people are rarely self-aware of their issues, or the children may hide the fact they have issues. So, it’s good to listen to those who openly tell you something is wrong, and find a solution on time.