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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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ARFID treatment at home

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a common eating disorder, though not widely understood. People who struggle with this condition refuse to eat or show little interest in eating due to disinterest in food, sensory issues with certain foods, or an intense fear of choking or throwing up after eating. (6)

Frequently, ARFID is confused with picky eating, especially as it is primarily first noticed in younger people or children. (6) But once a proper diagnosis has been made, it's possible for people of all ages to receive ARFID treatment at home.

Last updated on 
January 18, 2024
ARFID treatment at home
In this article

What is ARFID treatment at home?

It's long been possible for patients to receive some support in overcoming eating disorders at home. Traditionally, patients would use workbooks to help guide them through therapy modules and occasional meetings with a mental health professional over the phone or in person.

However, the internet has allowed for much more robust home treatment for eating disorders and made many levels of care available for many more people.

Many programs can now be offered through a combination of websites, apps, and texts, among other digital options, with patients receiving live guidance from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other member of their treatment team rather than working through a workbook independently.

Within offers remote treatment for ARFID in over 35 states. Learn more about the type of experience you can expect.

Treatment at Within

ARFID treatment at home for adults, teens, and children will likely include these therapy sessions and meetings with nutritional counselors to help instill healthy eating patterns and work toward changing restrictive eating habits.

Benefits of ARFID treatment at home

ARFID treatment at home has several benefits, chief among them the expansion of mental health services to those who may live far from in-person treatment facilities, those with challenges around mobility or transportation, and those whose schedules or social obligations may make more intensive in-person treatment difficult.

Many telehealth programs are also more cost-effective than in-person care.

And while virtual at-home treatment for eating disorders is still relatively new, it's already shown promising results. Studies have found that a course of virtual outpatient treatment for eating disorders was just as effective as in-person treatment in most cases.3 other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance use—which are often related to eating disorders of all kinds—have also been shown to respond well to online at-home care.2,4

While ARFID is commonly diagnosed earlier on in life, ARFID treatment at home for adults is also available. It can be helpful for those who are struggling with this condition while juggling greater social responsibilities.

ARFID treatment at home

Drawbacks of ARFID treatment at home

Still, at-home treatment for ARFID or other eating disorders is not a silver bullet. In some cases, this method of treatment may not be advisable.

It is not recommended that you try ARFID treatment at home if you suffer from:1

  1. Fainting spells
  2. Low blood pressure or a persistently low heart rate
  3. You’re chronically dehydrated
  4. Significant hair loss

This is not a comprehensive list of issues that may make in-person care more beneficial. It's essential to speak with your doctor or therapist to better understand the best course of action for you or your loved one.

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How to treat ARFID at home

Treating ARFID at home is easier than it may seem. The process usually starts with contacting your primary care physician, therapist, or other medical professional. They can offer you an official diagnosis and guide you in the direction of a helpful online program.

You'll then fill out an intake form. Make sure to answer honestly, as this will help the program understand the level of care you may best fit.

The treatment usually involves counseling and nutritional guidance, working with preferred foods at first and expanding from there to help someone regain a healthy weight and keep other ARFID symptoms at bay. Some patients may also benefit from group therapy sessions, where they can discuss their experiences with others who've gone through similar struggles.

Your doctor may also prescribe medication if you have overwhelming anxiety or depression symptoms that make it difficult for you to eat. The treatment for ARFID can be effective and long-lasting if it's done right.

Finding help for ARFID at Within

At Within Health, we know how difficult it can be to live with an eating disorder like avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. The symptoms of ARFID are slightly different from other typical eating disorders. However, there is hope.

Our highly educated and qualified team at Within knows it's important to make your treatment right for you. Our medical care team will send you tools for remote patient monitoring, like our numberless scale and a blood pressure cuff, to support your treatment and recovery.

Within Health also offers group therapy, which studies show is tremendously beneficial for people with eating disorders.5 You can start treating ARFID at home by contacting our care team today.

Get help today

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, Golden, N. H., Katzman, D. K., Sawyer, S. M., Ornstein, R. M., Rome, E. S., Garber, A. K., Kohn, M., & Kreipe, R. E. (2015). Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine: medical management of restrictive eating disorders in adolescents and young adults. The Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 56(1), 121–125.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). What is Telemental Health? National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed December 2023.
  3. Steiger, H., Booij, L., Crescenzi, O., Oliverio, S., Singer, I., Thaler, L., St-Hilaire, A., & Israel, M. (2022). In-person versus virtual therapy in outpatient eating-disorder treatment: A COVID-19 inspired study. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 55(1), 145–150.
  4. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). How well is telepsychology working? Monitor on Psychology. Accessed December 2023.
  5. Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy. (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Accessed December 2023.
  6. Thomas, J. J., Lawson, E. A., Micali, N., Misra, M., Deckersbach, T., & Eddy, K. T. (2017). Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: a Three-Dimensional Model of Neurobiology with Implications for Etiology and Treatment. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(8), 54.

FAQs

What is ARFID?

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a type of eating disorder where people avoid eating certain foods and experience distress when attempting to eat specific foods or while navigating situations related to food. Food avoidance is often severe, to the point where someone is not meeting their nutritional needs.

Unlike nearly all other eating disorders, there is no body image disturbance driving these behaviors.6

What is the treatment for ARFID?

ARFID is commonly treated through a combination of individual and group therapy and nutritional counseling. Younger patients may also benefit from family-based therapy, which involves other household members to help create an environment at home conducive to recovery.

If you or someone in your life has ARFID, it's important to seek help from a professional. Contact our clinical care team at Within to learn more about resources available in your area.

Does ARFID treatment at home work?

While every case is different, ARFID treatment at home can work. Studies have shown that at-home treatment for eating disorders can be just as effective as in-person treatment.6

Still, some more severe cases may benefit from more intensive in-person care. Speaking to a doctor before enrolling in a virtual program is essential.

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