Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder commonly known as ARFID is an eating disorder characterized by the persistent refusal to eat specific foods or refusal to eat any type of food due to a negative response from to certain foods colors, texture or smell. Additionally, treating ARFID may be difficult because individuals may refuse to eat out of fear of becoming sick or the fear of choking on food. This disorder is not characterized by the obsession with body shape or weight but rather is simply due to the disinterest and avoidance of foods. This disorder can result in excessive and unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition leading to the need for tube feeds or nutritional impairment. Oftentimes, psychosocial impairments result from this eating disorder as well. It most commonly occurs in children and was once considered a disorder of childhood and infancy but is now known to affect all ages.

Depending on the severity of the ARFID, individuals can receive different levels of care, ranging from residential treatment and partial hospitalization to intensive outpatient treatment and regular outpatient treatment. Weight and malnutrition are assessed at the initial visit in order to see if weight restoration may be necessary. ARFID is often linked with anxiety, autism, and ADHD and therefore it is important to recognize any other co-occurring disorders as soon as symptoms appear.

How to find a treatment center for treating ARFID

ARFID is a rare eating disorder but is definitely treatable with the correct treatment approaches. You may require different forms of therapy approaches than the person sitting next to you with the exact same disorder and therefore it is important to seek a treatment center that treats the individual and not the eating disorder. In other words, treatment centers should tailor the specific eating disorder to that individual instead of using a “cookie-cutter” treatment approach. It is vital to Look for treatment centers that are reputable, have good reviews, and are upfront about insurance coverage and finances. It is also vital to check to see if the treatment center is certified and licensed by the state and treat co-occurring conditions. Supporting family involvement and ensuring that you feel comfortable with the treatment center should also be considered. Don’t be rushed and take your time with your research.

The following are therapy approaches used to treat ARFID:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectal behavioral therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Exposure therapy

Seeking treatment for your ARFID can be challenging, as there are many treatment centers with a multitude of treatment options available. The most important aspect of treating ARFID is making sure you feel comfortable with the treatment center and with your treatment team. If you are not comfortable then you are less likely to be vulnerable about your feelings and your eating disorder, which can create inner personal conflicts during the treatment process. Other important aspects of treatment include finding a reputable and licensed treatment facility, working out the finances and insurance coverage, debating whether or not to go out of state for treatment, making sure the facility treats co-occurring disorders and provides trauma-informed care.