Understanding Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
When trying to understand eating disorders like avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, listening with an open, compassionate mind free of judgment will offer the most support. ARFID is so much more than picky eating, and should not be something scolded, or shamed when it presents in children or adults.
Often, the causes of eating disorders like ARFID are complex and closely linked to underlying mental health conditions that require specialized treatment for recovery. Someone presenting with ARFID may also be experiencing a variety of co-occurring disorders that expand far beyond someone simply not liking a particular food.
The longer a patient experiences ARFID without treatment, the more at risk they are for significant, lasting health issues. Therefore, people are encouraged to seek treatment if they have any concerns that they or someone they love may have ARFID.
Living With Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is a form of disordered eating that typically presents during childhood.
An example of ARFID in children may be the refusal to eat certain foods or those with colors, consistencies, and odors they don't like, but this may be hard to distinguish from children who are simply picky eaters. Children with AFRID will have developmental delays due to a lack of proper nutrition. In contrast, picky eaters will generally have healthy development as they consume enough food for their age category.
People with ARFID don't eat because they lose interest in food or think it is harmful. Color, odor, and/or consistency can also explain why people struggling with this disorder avoid eating. (3)
People with ARFID may struggle to be part of social activities and maintain relationships due to their eating problems. These are just a few of the issues surrounding this eating disorder.
History of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Before 2013, an ARFID diagnosis was known as either "selective eating disorder" or "feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood." Before the publication of DSM-5, this diagnosis was restricted to only those six years and under. (4)
However, later findings discovered that adults also struggle with avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Further studies show that behavioral patterns of adult ARFID patients somewhat differ from those of pediatric patients. (5) These findings were the catalyst for reclassifying this disorder.
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder in Pop Culture
Unlike well-known eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, ARFID does not seem to have any significant representation in pop culture. People often associate this disorder with a person just being picky, and they feel that children will outgrow this "phase” leading to many children not receiving proper treatment for their condition.
The lack of general awareness in society about this condition aids in the stigmatization and misinformation about ARFID. Without treatment, a person doesn't simply outgrow this condition, and it is much more complicated than a childhood phase.