At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando our child therapists provide evidence-based CBT / CBT-AR, and empirically supported care for clients and families struggling with ARFID.
What is ARFID?
ARFID, which stands for Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is an eating disorder characterized by a fear of eating or an aversion to certain types of food, and typically the sensory experience associated with them. ARFID can have a serious impact on physical and mental health and has the potential to negatively affect family dynamics. Symptoms associated with ARFID include trouble maintaining weight, avoiding social situations involving mealtime, and feeling a sense of disgust, anger or fear when exposed to certain types of food. ARFID can also lead to anxiety around mealtimes and difficulty eating during mealtimes. ARFID can be difficult for families to manage as it is often hard for them to understand why their loved one is unable to eat normally.
Sensory Experience and ARFID
For most with ARFID sensory experiences such as texture, smell and taste can be overwhelming / negative and cause distress and avoidance of foods. ARFID is thought to affect the senses more strongly than other eating disorders, as sensory aversion or hypersensitivity can make it difficult for a person to eat certain foods. People with ARFID may want to avoid specific foods in order to feel comfortable during meals or even in restaurants or social gatherings.
ARFID often co-occurs with other disorders such as OCD or ASD. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is a condition in which someone experiences intrusive, unwanted thoughts and feelings or distress, followed by compulsive behaviors. ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a condition characterized by difficulty with social interactions and communication. ARFID can make it difficult for a person with OCD or ASD to eat certain foods, and can lead to further difficulty with social interactions. Other disorders ARFID can co-occur with include anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Treatment for ARFID is often customized and tailored to the individual in order to address their specific needs. Effective treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT / CBT-AR), family support and coaching and the addition of nutrition education/support. Exposure and response prevention can also be adapted as a treatment modality for ARFID clients. ERP for ARFID includes gradually increasing exposure to feared food items, paired with changing thought patterns and coping with distress. In addition, ARFID clients can benefit from sensory interventions such as exploringGiven the complexity of ARFID, it is important that families seek out professional help in order to ensure their loved one gets the care they need. ARFID can have a profound impact on family dynamics but with proper treatment and support, families can learn how best to cope and find ways to help their loved one manage and possibly overcome the symptoms of ARFID.
According to the National Alliance for Eating Disorders: “In 2013, ARFID was first introduced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which provided a name for the symptoms and struggles that many families and adults were familiar with for much longer. With its introduction has come increased research and development of novel treatments, the most notable being Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ARFID (CBT-AR), which was developed at Mass General Hospital’s Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program.”
How We Help
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando we provide CBT and ERP for children struggling with ARFID, we also provide parenting support and guidance for the most effective treatment outcomes. Our child therapists are trained to use evidence-based and empirically supported techniques in ARFID treatment and to provide the best possible care for ARFID clients and their families. Please get in touch with us if you or your family is looking for ARFID treatment support.