What Is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)?

The ways that mental illness presents itself in people vary widely. Some suffer from mental disorders that they are born with and naturally develop as they grow up. A primary example is schizophrenia, which is commonly believed to be genetic and begins manifesting in early adulthood. 

Other mental disorders are influenced by genetics but are more inclined to develop from past trauma. A primary example is substance use disorder (SUD). People frequently turn to substance use to cope with past trauma and, as a result, become dependent on those substances. 

Some other mental illnesses often developed from trauma are eating disorders. With obsessions regarding food and body weight, eating disorders can completely break down a person’s body and even prove to be fatal. Despite how common these mental disorders may be, there is no question about their dangers to millions of Americans each day.

Commonly Known Eating Disorders

Some of the most commonly known eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Each one is different, but all are focused on obsession with food or body image. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) regarding eating disorders, binge eating disorder occurs when individuals experience a loss of control of their eating habits. Similar to most mental illnesses, the cause of binge eating disorder is unknown. 

Some speculate that eating becomes a coping mechanism in situations of great duress. Similar to how people become dependent on substance use, those who binge eat have difficulty stopping themselves from consuming food.

The other most commonly known eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. The opposite of binge eating disorder, individuals suffering from bulimia binge eat large amounts of food and then purge it from their bodies via vomiting and laxatives or compensate through fasting or exercise. 

These individuals are often fearful of gaining weight or are attempting to lose weight. Unlike binge eating disorder, bulimia is less about a lack of control and more about unhealthy obsessions with body image. 

The same goes for anorexia. People believe they are overweight and become dangerously afraid of gaining weight. They begin dangerously reducing their food intake and develop other unhealthy eating patterns, becoming severely malnourished in the process.

Less Commonly Known Eatings Disorders

One eating disorder less commonly known amongst individuals is avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Common in children, ARFID is a disorder where individuals limit the types of food they consume. This behavior goes well beyond being a picky eater. 

Adults suffering from ARFID are unable to preserve their everyday basic body functions. The danger of ARFID in children is that as they mature, they will experience malnutrition and hormonal imbalances because their bodies do not have the nutrients needed to function properly. Some of these malfunctions manifest in cardiovascular issues, anemia, and a lack of calcium or vitamin D. If untreated, these issues can progress and become life-threatening.

ARFID can also be a fear response for people. They are fearful of eating, choking, and they avoid specific foods. For example, someone afraid of choking may generally avoid crunchy and crumbly foods. ARFID can also be a symptom of other mental disorders. 

For example, depression can lead people to lack interest in eating. Over time their desire to eat becomes less, and they become severely malnourished. When people experience multiple co-occurring disorders simultaneously, it can generally increase the likelihood of malnourishment, neglecting basic needs, and irrevocable damage to the body. 

Seeking Treatment for ARFID and Eating Disorders

Effective therapy for eating disorders is often a combination of different methods. Similar to addiction treatment, therapies are most effective when individualized to each patient. An effective treatment plan can include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), antidepressants, or mood stabilizers to treat co-occurring disorders. Whatever the method of treatment, seeking it as quickly as possible is essential.

Just as one cannot pinpoint one direct cause of most mental health disorders, no one thing causes eating disorders. It is most frequently a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors that lead to an eating disorder. 

Eating disorders are prevalent among young individuals. Bullying, lack of self-confidence, and body insecurities at a young age are all factors that can spur an eating disorder. Despite the array of potential causes, the dangers of eating disorders are orderly and apparent. 

Individuals are dealing with a life and death situation, but there is hope. If an individual is suffering from an eating disorder, they should find help immediately. Call The Lakehouse today.

The Lakehouse Recovery Center is an addiction rehabilitation center, but we also focus on several co-occurring mental health conditions, including eating disorders. Most are familiar with common eating disorders like binge eating disorder, bulimia, and anorexia nervosa. While binge eating disorders revolve around a lack of control with eating, anorexia and bulimia develop from an unhealthy obsession with body image and weight loss. A less commonly known eating disorder is avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). This disorder is characterized as the avoidance of consuming nutritional foods, leading to malnourishment, hormonal imbalances, and other life-threatening medical issues. It can also be a symptom of other mental illnesses like depression, where individuals become generally disinterested in food consumption. If you suffer from ARFID or other eating disorders, seek treatment today. Through a combination of therapy, medication, and endless support, you can live a life of recovery. Call (877) 762-3707 to start your path to healing today.