Identifying Eating Disorders: What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Willow Place on April 23, 2019
Identifying Eating Disorders: What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

It’s normal for kids to be picky about what they want to eat. But, what happens if this picky eating goes on throughout all of childhood, adolescence, and even follows a person into adulthood? Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder which is characterized by picky eating behaviors like these. And, can lead to a number of negative consequences. For individuals struggling with this disorder, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and get help before the consequences of these eating behaviors lead to severe outcomes.

What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

In short, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) classifies Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder as an eating disorder diagnosis. It’s characterized by avoidant eating behaviors that are not stimulated by anxiety over body image, weight, and size. Therefore, this is what makes ARFID different than other eating disorders that involve similar avoidant behaviors like bulimia and anorexia. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder may avoid eating food because they don’t wish to eat, have had a bad experience with certain foods, or don’t like food based on characteristics (taste, smell, texture). Frequently, ARFID begins at an early age, but it wasn’t until recent years that it was determined to follow individuals into adulthood.

The Symptoms of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Identifying EDs: What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?A person with ARFID does not consume enough calories to maintain proper nutrition. As a result, individuals struggling with ARFID may be subject to a number of symptoms including:

  • Weight loss
  • Inability to gain weight and maintain weight goals
  • Nutritional insufficiency
  • The need for the use of metabolic stabilizers like feeding tubes and supplements
  • Psychological imbalance from lack of nutrition
  • Dry skin
  • Fragile nails
  • Thinning body and head hair
  • Weakened muscles
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Weakened immune system
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Low potassium
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Low blood sugar
  • Decreased iron levels
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Stomach cramping

Some other important characteristics of ARFID to note include:

  • Bodyweight, body image, self-esteem, and fear of gaining weight are not reasons those struggling with ARFID don’t eat, as these characteristics may be influenced in other eating disorders.
  • The inability to afford, purchase, or obtain food is not the issue.
  • Avoiding eating is not explained by the diagnosis of other mental health disorders or as a result of any underlying medical condition.

Who’s at Risk for Developing Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Unfortunately, certain individuals may be at a higher risk for developing ARFID. So, some risk factors for this type of eating disorder may include:

  • Intellectual disabilities, ADD, ADHD, and autism may put a person at risk for developing ARFID.
  • Children who have difficulty eating due to pickiness and don’t seem to grow out of the behavior are at an increased risk for ARFID.
  • Children who are showing early signs of mental health issues including anxiety may be at an increased risk for developing ARFID.

Some Identifiable Signs of ARFID

If you think your child may be struggling with an eating disorder, and you want to identify which eating disorder she may be dealing with, there are some things you can look for. Often, identifying these signs can help to prompt parents to seek the help their children need. So, to help identify this issue, some signs of ARFID can include:

  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold/having to wear extra clothes
  • Intense restrictions on what food can and cannot be eaten
  • Fears related to eating food like choking, constipation, and vomiting
  • No interest in eating and not having an appetite
  • Small selection in foods that one can eat that decreases with time

Do you Think a Loved one has ARFID?

Certainly, if you think a loved one is struggling with Avoidant RestrictiveFood Intake Disorder, help is available at Willow Place for Women. Here, we teach women how to get past fears surrounding food. And, establish healthy mindsets to incorporate a life of health and wellbeing. Also, we provide the needed tools to continue a life of healthy living once treatment concludes.

The Difference Between Bulimia and Anorexia

Finally, if you wish to speak with us about how we can help, call us today to speak confidentially with one of our experienced representatives at 1-888-651-4212.

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling substance use, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained admission specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance use disorder or a mental health issue can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

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