Most people associate avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) with younger children; however, it’s not exclusive to this younger demographic. This condition can occur in older teenagers, young adults, and above for various reasons. Knowing how to differentiate between being a picky eater and having the “silent eating disorder” becomes vital for anyone looking to get themselves or a loved one the help they need.
What Is ARFID?
Commonly confused with someone being a “picky eater,” ARFID is clinically defined as an eating or feeding disorder characterized by failing to meet appropriate nutritional or energy needs. While other eating disorders also focus on limiting the types and amounts of food you eat throughout the day, ARFID isn’t fueled by a need to meet a certain goal weight or achieve the ideal body — it’s all about the food.
ARFID means that you are eating but aren’t eating enough or with the variety needed to meet your nutritional and growth needs. Most people that suffer from ARFID deal with issues gaining or maintaining a healthy weight. Other times, it’s a fear associated with a certain type of food due to past experiences or misconceptions that have led you to avoid any food item like it because of that adverse effect or consequence.
Why Is ARFID the “Silent Eating Disorder?”
When people hear “eating disorder,” they immediately think of conditions such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa — the ones with the most noticeable side effects and symptoms. Each of these has received plenty of media attention and portrayals in popular media, but ARFID doesn’t show the same outward signs or attention.
Those suffering from ARFID can feel shuttered, closed off, and alone with their condition, believing that what they’re going through isn’t worthy of being heard. They suffer in silence because the people closest to them attribute their limited diet to merely being a “picky eater.”
How to Identify ARFID
Even though ARFID is labeled “the silent eating disorder,” it does not mean it has to stay that way. Knowing how to tell the difference between a picky eater and a true case of ARFID requires keeping a close eye out for the following symptoms:
- Little variety
- Hyper-awareness of your health
- Frequently get sick while eating out
- Low energy
- Regularly forget to eat
When trying to figure out if you or someone you love has ARFID, understanding the underlying reason behind why they choose to avoid specific foods can prove crucial to an accurate diagnosis.
Who Can Develop ARFID?
While every person is entitled to their food opinions, knowing who can develop the condition and the underlying reasons can help ensure they get the help to receive the ARFID treatments they need. When picky eating shifts over to ARFID, it’s not limited to one section of the population. In teenagers and adults, anyone can develop the condition, but it becomes prevalent in people that fall within the autism spectrum.
Adults on the autism spectrum can prove more likely to present a lack of interest in eating foods and developing nutritional deficiencies. Due to their communication skills, it can prove difficult for them to receive the levels of care for their condition. Mental health professionals must work directly with patients and their families to determine the appropriate care and treatment plan.
How People With ARFID Can Get the Help They Need
Because ARFID is widely considered a “silent eating disorder,” it does not mean you have to suffer in silence. Finding an eating disorder treatment center that develops a personalized approach for helping you through your condition can help jumpstart you or a loved one’s road to recovery. Aster Springs has provided countless individuals with ARFID the personalized care and attention they need.
If you or someone you love are dealing with ARFID, get the care and attention you deserve. Contact Aster Springs at 804-415-7603 or complete our contact form to learn more about our treatment programs and admissions process.