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Overview of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

What is ARFID?

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating or feeding disturbance that is characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs that leads to one or more of the following:

  • Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in a child)
  • Significant nutritional deficiency
  • Dependence on oral nutritional supplements or enteral feeding (the delivery of a nutritionally complete feed, containing protein, carbohydrate, fat, water, minerals and vitamins, directly into the stomach, duodenum or jejunum)
  • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning

It’s also important to understand what ARFID is not. It is not:

  • Associated with body image issues or any abnormalities related to how one perceives their body weight or shape
  • The result of lack of available food
  • A culturally sanctioned practice
  • Explained by another medical or mental disorder (“If we treat that issue, the eating problem will go away”).

ARFID vs. anorexia

ARFID is often confused with anorexia nervosa because weight loss and nutritional deficiency are common shared symptoms. However, the primary difference between ARFID and anorexia is that ARFID lacks drive for thinness.

The true prevalence of ARFID is unknown, due in large part to lack of understanding of the diagnosis. ARFID affects both genders and is more common in children and young adolescents; however, it can occur in late adolescence and adulthood as well.  ARFID is often associated with a psychiatric co-morbidity, especially anxious and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Seek highly specialized treatment for ARFID

The health risks and developmental consequences for children and adolescents with ARFID can be serious and long lasting. As a further complication, ARFID is difficult to accurately diagnose. Assessment by a clinical professional trained in the disorder is essential. ERC offers specialized treatment for children, adolescents and adults struggling with ARFID. Please call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule an assessment by one of our Master’s-level clinicians.

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