While many other well-known eating disorders — like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa — get all the headlines, ARFID is the silent disorder plaguing the nation. Even if it isn’t as widely discussed, ARFID is one of the more dangerous disorders not only because it’s an eating disorder but due to its nature and how difficult it can be to discover. With a few common signs and symptoms, you can help identify the presence of ARFID in you or a loved one and get the right eating disorder treatment options.
What Is ARFID?
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is similar to other eating disorders in that individuals restrict the amount of food they eat and don’t get proper nutrients. But what separates ARFID is that the concerns of people with this disorder aren’t about body image or size. People with ARFID lack interest in food and find it hard to eat adequately for their bodies to receive the nutrients they need.
For children and adolescents, ARFID can be disguised under the idea that they’re simply picky eaters or don’t have an interest in eating certain foods. If left undiagnosed by a mental health professional, ARFID leads to nutritional deficiencies that can stunt children’s growth.
Signs and Symptoms of ARFID
From behavioral changes to physical changes, signs and symptoms of ARFID vary by the individual. If you believe ARFID might be impacting someone you know, you can start the healing process by noting the presence of these changes.
Sudden Refusal to Eat Food
Unless it’s an effort to curb an unhealthy desire, a sudden refusal to eat foods one previously enjoyed consuming is an important sign that something might be amiss.
Extreme Fear of Foods That Might Cause Choking or Vomiting
Someone with ARFID might believe that certain foods will cause them to choke or vomit and refuse to eat them with all their might. These individuals may also excessively home in on how different foods impact their feelings.
Struggles to Eat Around Others
It’s not common for someone to find it difficult to eat around others. While some people worry about the aesthetics of taking a bite into a burger, individuals suffering from ARFID are more worried about being judged for their relationship with eating.
Stagnant Growth or Weight Loss
Physical signs like a child who doesn’t seem to be growing or gaining weight are very important things to note. Younger children especially should be growing at a very rapid rate, requiring larger clothing and bigger shoe sizes. If your child’s growth stagnates, it might be a sign that ARFID is the cause.
Additional signs include severe weight loss, an extreme lack of appetite, abnormal menstrual periods, stomach cramps, trouble concentrating on important tasks, a slow heart rate, and even thinning head hair.
How ARFID Is Diagnosed
For most people, ARFID comes about in childhood or adolescence. If ARFID occurs in adulthood, it’s usually a result of a disturbed feeding experience. When getting a diagnosis, medical professionals use the following criteria to determine whether or not ARFID is responsible for your refusal to eat. The diagnostic criteria for ARFID usually involve a disturbed eating or feeding experience that leads to:
- Nutritional deficiencies as a result of a lack of food intake
- Children failing to gain a normal amount of weight
- Extreme weight loss in adults
- Reduction of psychological functioning
- Lack of a distorted body image
Additionally, professionals use these criteria to determine the influence of ARFID on each individual:
- Picky eating during childhood
- Diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder
- Fear of eating due to vomiting
- Restricting food intake
- Signs of other eating disorders like anorexia or other concerns about weight gain
If You Believe You Have ARFID, a Treatment Facility Can Help
ARFID can be extremely dangerous and impact individuals in more ways than one. As with all eating disorders, getting the right help is the most important step in caring for yourself and someone you know. With the Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment, you can get help treating ARFID in adults that addresses the issue before it gets out of hand. If you believe ARFID is taking a toll on you or someone you love, your next step should be to contact Shoreline today. Call us at 562-434-6007 or complete our contact form.