About Eating Disorders
What is ARFID?
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs as a result of eating or feeding disturbances such as an apparent lack of interest in food, avoidance due to the sensory qualities of food, and/or concern over adverse consequences of eating food. These disturbances are not associated with distorted body image or body dissatisfaction, but are associated with significant weight loss or faltering growth/developmental patterns (in children and adolescents); dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements; and/or marked interference with psychosocial functioning. These disturbances cannot be better explained by a lack of food, cultural practices, or a concurrent medical condition or mental disorder. Individuals with ARFID may experience extreme emotional dysregulation and anxiety around mealtimes, have a fear of vomiting or choking, and/or undergo thorough testing for chronic abdominal pain with no satisfactory findings.
What causes ARFID?
Like all eating disorders, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder develops over a period of time as a result of a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single cause to point to and, despite common misconceptions, families, and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to ARFID that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime. The mean age of diagnosis is 11 years; however, symptoms may present in infancy or early childhood.
- Malnutrition-induced changes in physiological processes and altered hunger and fullness signals
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- Genetic predisposition and societal pressures (e.g., drive for thinness)
- Abnormal brain circuitry and weakened food-related reward pathways
- Temperamental traits
What to Look For
Being familiar with the signs and symptoms can help you champion early intervention and recovery through ARFID treatment. Watch for dysregulated emotions around mealtimes, significant weight loss, and a failure to meet nutritional needs and growth trajectories. Associated disorders, or “comorbidities,” include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and cognitive disorders.
- Weight loss and nutritional deficiencies
- Failure to meet growth trajectories
- Emotional dysregulation and high anxiety around mealtimes
- Chronic abdominal pain lacking an apparent cause
- Fears or phobias around illness, choking, or vomiting
- Neutral or positive body image
Risks of ARFID
ARFID can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.
- Cognitive impairment
- Delayed puberty or dysregulation of reproductive hormones
- Impaired brain functioning and signaling
- Weakened food-related reward pathways
- Chronic abdominal pain, fatigue, and headaches
Let Us Help You Recover
If you or a loved one are struggling with ARFID, don’t wait to reach out for help. The earlier ARFID is treated, the better the outcomes tend to be.
At Veritas Collaborative, we work with you to create an individualized care plan so you or your child get the right treatment at the right time. We offer a full continuum of care, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP), outpatient, and virtual programs for children, adolescents, and adults. This allows us to provide best-in-class care and support throughout your recovery journey, even as your needs change. Our treatment programs focus on real-life skills, including hands-on nutrition and culinary experiences that you can take with you for lasting recovery. We encourage family involvement and offer family-based therapy and educational support for children and adolescents.