McCallum Place is a nationally acclaimed eating disorder treatment center that offers comprehensive, personalized care for adolescents and adults of all genders who have been struggling with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID. Our ARFID treatment programs in St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, can help you achieve improved mental and physical health.
What Is ARFID?
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID, is a type of eating disorder that is characterized by behaviors such as a persistent unwillingness to eat, food avoidance because of certain sensory characteristics, refusal to eat because of unrealistic fears of adverse consequences, or an apparent lack of interest in eating.
ARFID is not the only eating disorder that involves a highly restrictive diet. For example, people who have anorexia nervosa may also place severe limitations on their food intake. However, in the case of ARFID, these symptoms are not prompted by body image concerns or fear of weight gain.
It is important to understand that ARFID is much more serious than just being a “picky eater.” Many individuals, especially younger people, are very selective in their food preferences. However, food selectiveness only meets the diagnostic criteria for ARFID when it is severe, persistent, and leads to certain negative outcomes.
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to be accurately diagnosed with ARFID, a person must experience one or more of the following outcomes as a result of their eating habits:
- Significant weight loss or, for children and adolescents, failure to achieve expected weight gain
- Significant nutritional deficiencies
- Needing enteral feeding (such as a feeding tube) or nutritional supplements
- Impaired psychosocial functioning
ARFID symptoms typically first occur during infancy or childhood, but they may persist through adolescence and into adulthood.
The effects of untreated ARFID can be devastating. However, when an adolescent or adult receives effective, comprehensive treatment for ARFID, they can achieve improved mental and physical health.
Personalized treatment for ARFID at McCallum Place in St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, can help individuals manage their symptoms, develop healthier eating behaviors, and achieve improved quality of life.
A person who exhibits the following signs may be struggling with ARFID:
- Noticeable weight loss
- Delayed growth or lack of expected weight gain (in children or adolescents)
- Following a very restrictive diet or only eating certain types of food
- Eating very slowly
- Being unwilling to eat in front of others
- Often stating that they’re not hungry or not feeling well prior to meals
- Frequently claiming that they’ve lost their appetite
- Wearing oversized or baggy clothing in an attempt to hide weight loss
Individuals who struggle with ARFID may also experience guilt or shame due to their eating behaviors. In addition to prompting them to eat alone, these feelings may also cause them to withdraw from friends and family members and end their participation in activities that were previously important to them.
Significant behavior changes like these can be a sign that an individual is in crisis. Anyone who demonstrates any possible signs of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider.
Completing a thorough assessment and receiving an accurate diagnosis are two essential steps on the path toward recovery from ARFID.
Symptoms of ARFID
Individuals who struggle with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder may experience a variety of symptoms. This disorder can impact each person in a unique way. However, the following are among the more common symptoms of ARFID:
- Feeling weak, lightheaded, or dizzy
- Having frequent stomach pains
- Developing dry skin and thinning or brittle hair
- Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Finding it difficult or impossible to concentrate
- Having mood swings or sudden emotional outbursts
Complications of ARFID
Untreated avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can have a negative impact on a person’s physical, mental, and social well-being. The following are examples of the potential physical effects of ARFID:
- Permanent damage to kidneys and liver
- Muscle weakness
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Disrupted menstruation
- Impaired immune system
- Elevated risk of heart attack
The effects of ARFID aren’t limited to medical problems. Individuals who need ARFID treatment may also experience the following mental and social effects:
- Strained or ruined relationships with peers, friends, or colleagues
- Family discord
- Diminished performance in school or at work
- Inability to find and keep a job
- Onset or worsening of co-occurring mental health concerns
- Financial difficulties
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
When you get effective treatment for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, you minimize your risk for continued harm. While you’re in treatment, you can also begin to heal from any ARFID effects you’ve already experienced.
Treatment for ARFID
All adolescents and adults who receive care for ARFID at McCallum Place in St. Louis, Missouri, or Kansas City, Kansas, follow personalized treatment plans. These plans are based on the thorough assessment each patient completes prior to starting treatment.
Depending on each patient’s history, needs, and goals, their personalized ARFID treatment plan may include elements such as:
Individual therapy: During individual therapy sessions, patients work with an experienced professional to process their experiences, address concerns they may be unwilling to discuss in a group setting, develop skills to manage ARFID symptoms, and make behavioral changes. Individual therapy for ARFID may also include exposure and response prevention (ERP) sessions and one-on-one meal support.
Group therapy: Group therapy is an integral element of treatment for ARFID at McCallum Place. While you are receiving care for ARFID at our facility in St. Louis, Missouri, or Kansas City, Kansas, you may have the opportunity to take part in a variety of groups, including:
- Support groups
- Meal planning therapy groups
- Fitness therapy groups
- Dance and movement therapy groups
- Art therapy groups
- Pet-assisted therapy groups
- Spirituality-focused groups
During groups, you can share your experiences, learn from the insights of others, gain valuable information about ARFID treatment and recovery, and develop skills and strategies that will prepare you for a healthier future.
Family therapy: During family therapy sessions, the patient who is receiving care for ARFID and their loved ones work with a treatment professional to process their experiences, heal rifts, practice healthy communication skills, learn about ARFID treatment and recovery, and improve their ability to support one another.
Discharge planning: When you complete your treatment at McCallum Place, you’ll receive a detailed discharge plan to guide the next steps in your recovery journey. This detailed document will connect you with the professional resources and community-based services that can help you maintain and build on the progress you make while you’re in our care.