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Our San Francisco Bay Area Residential Center specializes in treating Selective Eating Disorder or Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Selective Eating Disorder or ARFID Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery | San Francisco Bay Area

What is Selective Eating Disorder or ARFID?

Selective Eating Disorder, commonly known as Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (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 certain food colors, textures or smells. Additionally individuals may refuse to eat due to fear of becoming sick or choking on food. This disorder is not characterized by an obsession with body shape or weight but rather is simply due to the disinterest and avoidance of foods. Selective eating disorder can result in excessive unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition leading to nutritional impairment or the need for tube feeds. Oftentimes, psychosocial impairments result from ARFID as well.

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Do I have an eating disorder?
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Does my loved one have an eating disorder?
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Signs, symptoms and diagnosis for Selective Eating Disorder and ARFID

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V), recognizes selective eating disorder and avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder as an eating disorder that is clinically distinct from both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. ARFID most commonly occurs in children and was once considered a disorder of childhood and infancy but is now known to affect all ages. The following are four diagnostic criteria that must be met in order for an individual to be diagnosed with ARFID:

  • An eating disturbance characterized by a failure to meet appropriate weight gain or nutritional requirements. The eating disturbance can be characterized as a lack of interest in eating food, refusal to eat certain foods based on color, texture and smell, or refusal to eat food based on fear of choking or becoming sick. This disturbance must occur to the extent that enteral feeding or supplemental nutrition is needed; there is significant weight loss, there is significant nutritional deficiency, or there is a marked interference with psychosocial functioning.

  • This disturbance is not from a lack of food or cultural values

  • There is no disturbance in body weight or shape and this disorder is not due exclusively to anorexia or bulimia nervosa

  • This disorder is not due to a medical condition or due to another mental health disorder

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Who does Selective Eating Disorder (Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) affect and why does it occur?

Selective Eating Disorder (Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) affects individuals of all ages starting from infancy. It was once thought to only occur in babies and young children but now studies have shown that it can occur in adulthood or persist up to adulthood from childhood. This disorder tends to present itself at a younger age than either anorexia or bulimia nervosa and affects more males than either of these disorders as well. ARFID tends to occur on average at 12-13 years of age.

Treatment and complications for Selective Eating Disorder - Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Since Selective Eating Disorder is a relatively new disorder more research is needed in order to determine the most effective treatment. As with other eating disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy currently is the first-line approach and works to recognize negative thoughts as well as the underlying reason for these thoughts about food in order to transform this unsafe behavior into a healthier approach.  Healthy coping skills, problem solving skills and communication skills are taught throughout our therapy approach. Exposure therapy is another approach used for children who have a fear of certain foods. Overtime, these foods are exposed to the individual on a gradual basis until their fear has diminished and they are comfortable eating.

If ARFID is severe enough, complications such as electrolyte imbalances, low blood pressure, slow rate heart and digestive problems will begin to occur. It is important to seek treatment with a mental health professional at our San Francisco Bay Area treatment center if this disorder is suspected.

Take a tour of our San Francisco Bay Area Eating Disorder Treatment Center

Center For Discovery San Francisco Bay Area specializes in residential treatment for selective eating or ARFID with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.

For more information, resources, or to consult with an eating disorder treatment specialist, call 866.482.3876