ARFID – the new kid on the block.
Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is sometimes characterised as ‘picky eating’, but it’s actually a newly categorised eating disorder.
A person with ARFID has issues eating certain foods, which leads to inadequate nutritional intake. Eventually, ARFID can lead to a dependence on supplements, or even a feeding tube.
Unlike other eating disorders, ARFID is most common in childhood or infancy, although it can affect adults, too.
In adults, ARFID may cause weight loss, but in children and young people, it may simply mean they do not gain the weight they should. This can have a significant impact on health.
Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, ARFID, is characterised by an avoidance of eating that leads to a failure to meet nutritional or energy needs.
This avoidance may be due to concerns regarding uncomfortable consequences of eating, displeasure with the tastes and/or textures of foods, or a number of other reasons.
Importantly, this avoidance must not be explained by a normal cultural practice or a food allergy.
The results of this avoidance may be that the individual loses a significant amount of weight, or for children, fails to gain weight as expected, experiences a deficiency in important nutrients, requires food supplements or special feedings, or experiences substantial impairment in his/her life as a result of the avoidance.
Although many of these features may be present in anorexia nervosa, a corresponding fear of weight gain and disturbance in body image is not present in ARFID. Information on the prevalence of ARFID is not yet available; however, ARFID most commonly begins in infancy or early childhood.
Although picky-eating in young children is not unusual, warning signs of ARFID include such ‘pickiness’ leading to a failure to gain weight as expected or the necessity of administering nutritional supplements in order to avoid experiencing a nutritional deficiency. ARFID may negatively affect family functioning, especially around mealtime.
Related psychological conditions include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.
Does my child have ARFID?
- Have trouble eating or digesting specific types of food?
- Eat only very small portions?
- Eat very slowly?
- Avoid particular types, textures, or colours of food?
- Experience a lack of appetite?
- Have a fear of eating? – can be caused by a previous episode of choking or vomiting
If you suspect your child may have ARFID, contact your GP today.
For families looking for an eating disorder clinician, a great place to look is the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) which as a search tool for finding a clinician local to you.
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