Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a complex, but treatable, mental health condition. It is relatively new diagnostic category and it characterised by
- An eating or feeding disturbance. This can look like an apparent lack of interest in eating or food, avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food or concern about aversive consequences of eating like choking or vomiting.
- This leads to a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs. This can result in weight loss, nutritional deficiency or a dependence on nutritional supplements.
- There is no evidence of body image disturbance.
- The eating disturbance is not attributable to a lack of food, cultural practice, physical illness or other mental health condition.
- Although many children go through phases of picky or selective eating, a person with ARFID does not consume enough calories to grow and develop properly and in adults, to maintain basic body function.
- Individuals with autism spectrum conditions, ADHD and intellectual disabilities are much more likely to develop ARFID.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder:
- Dramatic restriction in types or amount of food eaten.
- Will only eat certain textures of food.
- Fears of choking or vomiting.
- Lack of appetite or interest in food.
- Limited range of preferred foods that become narrower over time.
- No body image disturbance or fear of weight gain.
- Menstrual irregularities.
- Feeling cold all the time.
- Sleep problems.
- Muscle weakness.
- Impaired immune functioning.
- Stomach cramps, constipation, acid reflux etc.
Support & Recovery
- It is important to know that recovery from ARFID is always possible, no matter how long someone has been unwell.
- The prognosis of ARFID is greatly improved, however, with early and immediate access to treatment. Therefore, it is very important that you reach out for help and support as soon soon as you can. The first step to getting professional help is to make an appointment with your GP.
- The Eating Disorders Association (N.I.) can talk this through with you if you are feel nervous about approaching someone. We offer a wide range of information materials and support services to help you or your loved one in recovery.
- BEAT UK have an online support group for for parents/carers of young people aged 5-15, with an ARFID diagnosis and/or displaying ARFID behaviours and presentations.
Additional Resources and Links:
National Eating Disorders Association- https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid
BEAT UK- https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/get-information-and-support/about-eating-disorders/types/arfid/
BEAT UK- https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/get-information-and-support/support-someone-else/endeavour-arfid-carer-support-group/