What is ARFID?
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID, is a somewhat new diagnosis in the DSM-5.
According to Amy Boyers:
"ARFID is unique for every individual. For some people, it could look like avoiding certain colors or textures of food, an avoidance of a specific food out of fear of nausea or vomiting, or or a fear of general classes of foods such as all fruits. ARFID is generally developed by a person fearing choking or vomiting. In some cases, a person had a traumatic experience that created this fear. It is recommended that an individual with these symptoms be evaluated by a speech therapist who is an expert in swallowing disorders to make sure that there is not a medical issue related to their ability to swallow.
While “picky eaters” disorders are typically found in children and adolescents, it can affect people at any age or developmental level. For adults who are “picky eaters”, they might only eat 10 to 20 different foods."
DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), or DSM-5, outlines the following criteria for a ARFID diagnosis:
- A patient has no other mental disorders or medical conditions
- The patient's eating can include a lack of interest in eating or food intake
- A patient will refuse to eat foods because of their appearance, smell, texture, or taste.
- A patient will worry about the results or consequences of eating
- A patient will fail to meet their required caloric intake, which causes weight loss or an inability to gain weight. For younger patients, a lower caloric intake may stunt their growth milestones.
- A patient will have nutritional deficiencies, which may necessitate the use of enteral feeding, a method of feeding that uses the gastrointestinal tract to deliver caloric requirements
- A patient will have disrupted social functioning, such as stress during meals or avoiding social activities where food is present
Important Note: ARFID is not caused by a lack of food or a cultural practice of fasting or not eating certain foods. ARFID is also different from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa because there is no perceived distorted body image in patients of ARFID.
Eating disorders are extremely serious. While it may be tempting to write off ARFID as nothing more than picky eating, it can drastically affect your health or the health of your loved one. ARFID can lead to dramatic weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, social anxieties, and a decreased quality of life.
If you need help, there is hope! Reach out to one of our licensed ARFID treatment mental health professionals.