While the onset of ARFID is usually in childhood, it can affect a person at any age or developmental level.
ARFID, or Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is an eating disorder where individuals select what they eat based on factors such as appearance, brand, taste, smell, texture or past negative experiences. It is different from other eating disorders in that clients with ARFID typically do not have any desire to improve body image or lose weight, although symptoms can initially appear very similar to anorexia in the sense that food intake is restricted and there is a general resistance to eating that can result in significant nutritional deficiencies and extreme weight loss.
Difficulties with eating may be the first symptoms to appear, or they might emerge after other issues have been identified. Because individuals with ARFID may experience abdominal pain and other adverse consequences when they eat, they can also exhibit symptoms of anxiety that further exacerbate food avoidance. Children who have experienced trauma or illness may suddenly develop symptoms of ARFID. Regardless of its origin, if left untreated the symptoms of ARFID can persist into adulthood or develop into another category of eating disorder. Children with ARFID are known to exhibit hypersensitive and obsessive qualities, such as an adversion to being splashed, excessive cleaning, and refusing to eat food that looks lumpy.
It is normal for children to be picky eaters at one time or another, but a child with ARFID is so picky they do not consume enough calories to grow, develop and maintain proper bodily functions. Children with ARFID will experience delayed weight gain and vertical growth, while adults will experience significant weight loss. ARFID isn’t just about personal preference or being a “picky eater.” It is a mental health disorder, just like anorexia or bulimia, and it requires both medical nutrition therapy and psychological interventions.
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