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What is ARFID?

ARFID is a mental health diagnosis that stands for: Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.

ARFID is characterised by an extreme avoidance or restriction of food intake, leading to significant weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and impaired psychosocial functioning. Unlike other eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, ARFID is not driven by body image concerns or a desire for weight loss. Instead, it stems from sensory sensitivities, fear of aversive consequences associated with eating, or a lack of interest in eating altogether.

One of the primary features of ARFID is the limited range of foods consumed. Individuals with ARFID often have highly selective eating habits, preferring familiar textures, colours, or tastes while avoiding certain foods based on sensory characteristics. This can lead to a severely restricted diet, with only a handful of “safe” foods deemed acceptable.

Diagnosing ARFID can be challenging due to its overlapping symptoms with other mental health conditions and the lack of awareness among healthcare professionals. Moreover, societal misconceptions about picky eating or fussy eaters often trivialize the severity of ARFID, delaying diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment for ARFID typically involves a multidisciplinary approach, including nutritional counselling, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and exposure therapy to gradually introduce new foods and expand the individual’s food repertoire. Additionally, addressing any underlying sensory sensitivities or anxiety disorders is crucial in managing ARFID effectively.

Increasing awareness and understanding of ARFID is essential for early identification and intervention. Educating healthcare providers, educators, and the general public about the complexities of this disorder can help reduce stigma and ensure individuals receive the support and treatment they need.

To find out more about ARFID visit https://www.arfidawarenessuk.org/

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