Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that has only recently been diagnosed. It is characterized by restrictive eating or only eating certain types of foods. However, those who have it specifically do not have fears of weight gain or body image like anorexia nervosa.

While ARFID may just seem to be “picky eating,” especially in adolescents, it can be a serious issue with long-term, negative effects. By knowing what the symptoms of this eating disorder look like, you can recognize potentially dangerous signs and seek the appropriate care.

Signs and Symptoms of ARFID

There are signs and symptoms of ARFID that are shared with another eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. However, there are some distinctions between the two. The signs of ARFID are as follows:

  • Serious Weight Loss – By limiting the intake of food, weight loss naturally is a common symptom of ARFID. This symptom would not be a fluctuation of a few pounds, but a very dramatic change.
  • Heat Retention Issues – There may be complaints of never being able to warm up and the person may constantly layer clothing. If the disorder progresses to a certain point, those affected by ARFID may grow a fine layer of hair all over the body. This is because their skin is trying to retain as much heat as possible.
  • Restricting Food – Those with ARFID will eat very few types of foods. Only eating foods with certain textures, lack of appetite, and reducing food intake are all signs of the disorder.
  • Dry Hair, Nails, and Skin – Your hair, nails, and skin are indicators of overall health in the body. For those with ARFID, those three areas often become dry and brittle. This means that the body is suffering from nutritional deficiencies.
  • Fears About Eating – People with ARFID often have fears about choking or vomiting when they eat. They may also fear that eating something unfamiliar will harm them. This can cause even more restrictive food intake and malnutrition.

Additionally, someone who is struggling with this eating disorder could faint often, have sleep issues, and have trouble concentrating.

Effects ARFID Has on Your Health

This eating disorder can be hard to diagnose due to the fact that, at first, it may not seem serious. However, the impact on your health can be devastating.

The effects of having this eating disorder can include a multitude of issues:

  • Slowed digestion
  • Bacterial infections
  • Inability to digest food properly
  • Pancreatitis
  • Loss of bone density
  • Loss of muscle
  • Heart failure

When a person’s body does not receive the proper nutrients to survive, it will start slowly shutting down. Death can be the eventual consequence if ARFID is not treated.

Risk Factors for ARFID

There are certain individuals who are more at risk of developing ARFID. For example, those that are on the spectrum for autism, have ADHD, or have intellectual disabilities possess a higher chance of developing this disorder.

Children also have a higher likelihood of developing ARFID, especially those who fall into two groups. The first is those who have severe picky eating habits, and do not outgrow them later. Second, are children who have anxiety and other psychiatric conditions.

Any number of these factors, alone or combined, can put someone at a higher risk for developing ARFID.

How Is ARFID Treated?

There are many different methods that can be utilized to treat this eating disorder, such as residential, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs. Which one is the best depends on factors such as duration and severity of the disorder, age, gender, and more.

If you need to start recovering from ARFID or another eating disorder, Seeds of Hope can help. We offer residential and outpatient programs, and we treat both adults and teens. Call us at (610) 644-6464 or fill out our form to contact us today.