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Expanding on ARFID 

We've discussed ARFID on our blog before. As a review, we wrote the following:

ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is a newly introduced eating disorder added to DSM-5 in 2013. ARFID is characterized by failing to meet nutrition needs due to restriction, avoidance, and aversion of foods. It can be sometimes confused with general picky eating, but ARFID is an extreme version of picky eating, wherein the individual suffering may tolerate very few foods/types of food. This disorder is most common in children and adolescents, but it can affect all ages. ARFID is different from most other eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, as individuals with ARFID are not driven towards their behaviors with food out due to body image distress.

Three Main Identifiers For ARFID 

  1. Restrictive: Overall lack of interest in food or certain foods; Forgetting to eat; Thinking of eating as a chore; Low appetite; Distracted during mealtime

  2. Sensory Avoidance: Foods have strange or intense tastes, textures, smells; Sensitivity or over-stimulation reaction; “Supertasters” – exaggerated degree of bitterness or sweetness; Concern with how food will taste in their mouths

  3. Fear of Aversive Experience: History of scary experience with food such as throwing up, choking, allergic reactions; Avoiding foods that have made them sick in the past; Discontinuing eating many foods or certain food groups due to fear of these outcomes

Now, it's important to add that there is a lot more to consider about having and treating ARFID. ARFID can present dangers for those suffering, given that many individuals with the disorder may lose weight and experience significant nutritional deficiencies. Thankfully, there are nutritional counseling and mental health counseling interventions that can support individuals with ARFID. When treating ARFID (and any eating disorder), it is important to look for someone specialized, as many Masters Dietetic and Counseling programs provide little (if any) training on treating eating disorders. Dietitians who are specialized can provide interventions that help clients expand their palate for foods, find more "safe foods," plan and organize their daily eating patterns, give feedback on their nutritional intake, and provide psycho-education about nutritional needs. Therapists trained to treat ARFID can work with clients to decrease stress at mealtimes, develop coping skills when trying new foods or increasing intake, and process traumas that may contribute to the development of ARFID symptoms.

If you or a loved one is struggling with ARFID, please feel free to reach out to Austin Counseling and Nutrition for more information about starting in-person or virtual nutritional counseling and mental health counseling. We have many great eating disorder counselors and dietitians, and we are here to help! 

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