What We Treat
What is ARFID?
ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) is an eating disorder characterized by highly selective eating habits, disturbed feeding patterns or both. It often results in significant nutrition and energy deficiencies, and for children, failure to gain weight.
Common eating and feeding challenges for an individual with ARFID include difficulty digesting food; avoidance of specific types of food textures, colors and smells; eating at an abnormally slow pace, or having a general lack of appetite.
Symptoms of ARFID
The following is a common list of ARFID symptoms to help you discern whether you or your child may need professional eating disorder treatment:
- Extreme pickiness in choosing food
- Anxiety when presented with “fear” foods
- For adults, weight loss; for children, failure to gain weight
- Dependence on nutritional supplements, a feeding tube or both
- Avoidance of particular foods, based on texture, color, taste, smell, food groups, etc.
- Frequent vomiting or gagging after exposure to certain foods
- Difficulty chewing food
- Lack of appetite
- Trouble digesting specific types of foods
- Consumption of extremely small portions
- Dependence on external feeding tubes or nutritional supplements
- Social isolation
ARFID in Children and Adolescents
ARFID is most common in infants and children, with some cases persisting into adulthood. Preliminary study shows that it may affect up to 5% of children, with boys being at greater risk for developing ARFID, according to Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. Overall, an estimated 3.2% of the general population suffers from ARFID, including 14% to 22.5% of children in pediatric treatment programs for any type of eating disorder (Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment).
Is ARFID a Mental Illness?
ARFID is an eating disorder so technically it is a mental illness. ARFID frequently occurs with other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/
How is ARFID Diagnosed?
Diagnostic criteria for ARFID, according to DSM-5, include:
- The individual demonstrates a disturbed eating experience that is associated with one or more of the following:
- Nutritional deficiency as a result of inadequate intake of food
- Weight loss (adults) or failure to gain weight (children)
- Decline in psychosocial function
- Dependence on supplements to maintain nutritional health
- The disturbed eating is not due to an explainable external factor, such as food being unavailable or in short supply.
- The person does not have a distorted body image.
- The feeding disturbance or food restriction is not a result of some other physical or mental illness. For example, a person who loses weight because of the flu or food poisoning does not have an eating disorder, so a diagnosis of ARFID would not be relevant.
What Makes ARFID Different from Other Eating Disorders like Anorexia or Bulimia?
Unlike cases of anorexia and bulimia, ARFID does not typically involve poor body image, a drive to be thin, or a displeasure with external appearance. However, inadequate nutrition and caloric intake, especially among children, can seriously delay growth or prevent normal weight gain.
ARFID frequently occurs with other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD).
ARFID Health Risks
Though ARFID is different from more common eating disorders, it is still an eating disorder that can cause serious health risks if left untreated. Common health risks associated with ARFID include:
- Weight Loss
- Developmental delays
- Co-occurring anxiety disorders
- Failure to gain weight (children)
- Gastrointestinal complications
Because of ARFID’s unique nature – and prevalence among young people – an intensive and specialized treatment approach is needed in most cases.
Walden Behavioral Care offers personalized ARFID IOP treatment for individuals and families affected by ARFID. Our ARFID treatment programs include special pediatric and adolescent programming, both involving family-based therapy, which has been proven to minimize disordered behavior, lead to a more balanced diet and improve long-term recovery rates.
Is ARFID Treatment Covered by Insurance?
Walden is proud to be “in network” with most insurance providers and managed care companies. This way, children, adolescents and adults with ARFID can have the flexible and cost-efficient access to treatment they need. Click here for a list of organizations with which Walden has contractual relationships.
Regain Your Life With Personalized ARFID Treatment. Walden Can Help.
If you are concerned that you – or a loved one – may have ARFID or another eating disorder, we are here to help. Please call 888-791-0004 to speak with a Walden eating disorders intake specialist, or complete the form on the right, to start on the road to ARFID recovery.
Getting Started with ARFID Treatment: Intake Assessment
Help for ARFID is always a quick and confidential phone call away.
As for a first step to getting help for ARFID, we will conduct a brief (10 to 15 minute) intake assessment by telephone, during which we will review your concerns and gather basic information about your background, medical history and insurance coverage.
The ARFID evaluation will include a psychiatric assessment, an in-depth review of clinical information and a recommendation for the proper level of care. Primary care referrals are not required, and we will work with your insurance provider or providers for approval of ARFID treatment.
The entire ARFID assessment is confidential, and we will make it as easy and comfortable for you as possible.
Read our blog posts about ARFID to learn more about ARFID symptoms, treatment and more.