What ARFID is NOT
We have previously talked about what Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is (read more about ARFID here). As a quick reminder, ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis for picky eaters who demonstrate food phobias. They often internally know that the rules they have about food are irrational but continue to have an internal battle regarding what foods are safe and unsafe to eat.
In this post, we want to focus on what ARFID is not to help differentiate between ARFID, typical development of feeding, and other feeding disorders.
ARFID is not:
- Simply not liking fruits or vegetables: ARFID is characterized by food phobias and intense anxiety around food. Their conscious brain may be telling them they want to eat the fruit or vegetable and that they like the fruit or vegetable, but the subconscious brain is telling them that the food is unsafe to eat (e.g., due to brand, how it was prepared, etc.).
- Having a toddler (e.g., around the age of 2) who is beginning to discriminate and dislike some foods: This is a typical phase of child development! We all dislike some foods for one reason or another (sorry, but no anchovies for me), so it would be expected for your little one to indicate they don’t want to eat some foods that are being served too.
- Eating or restricting calories because you desire to lose weight: People with ARFID generally report a fear of vomiting and/or choking and extreme aversions to a certain food or texture, which may prevent them from eating foods to gain sufficient daily nutritional value. Individuals with ARFID do not have feelings of distress related to weight, body shape, or size, such as an individual with anorexia.
- Just “not wanting” food: ARFID it is a psychiatric disorder that can make it nearly impossible for the person to be able to eat.
- Something someone can just choose to “get over”: Individuals with ARFID typically need professional help to decrease their food phobias and anxiety around food. This may include traditional feeding therapy, behavioral/exposure therapy, or hypnosis. A person with ARFID will not simply begin to eat “if they are hungry enough,” which is why withholding safe/preferred foods is not a good technique to use during treatment.
It is important to remember that ARFID is a psychiatric-based eating disorder that can significantly impact nutritional intake and result in significant weight loss or the individual relying on tube feeding or nutritional supplements. It is not developmental in nature, such as difficulty chewing or swallowing due to delayed oral motor skills. When seeking a professional’s support, we recommend looking for someone with previous experience treating ARFID. ARFID does not always respond to traditional therapy techniques that support other eating/feeding disorders so it’s important to find a professional who can support the individual’s specific food phobias in addition to expanding their food repertoire.
If you have questions, please reach out to Kelly at Infinity Hypnosis. Kelly is an SLP who specializes in ARFID and helps her client overcome a variety of feeding difficulties. Contact Kelly and Infinity Hypnosis at [email protected] or check out her website at https://infinityhypnosis.com/ to book a free consultation where Kelly can answer any questions you may have.