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What is ARFID? And Effective Treatment in Orlando

Many people have heard the term “picky eater” or “fussy eater,” but what happens when extreme pickiness goes beyond a simple dislike of specific foods? That’s where a diagnosis of ARFID or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder comes in. ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis that applies to individuals who experience an inability to meet their nutritional or caloric needs due to an extremely restricted or highly selective eating pattern. ARFID can co-occur with other conditions such as OCD and ASD, but how do these disorders interact with each other? In this article, we will be diving deeper into what ARFID is and how it can co-occur with OCD and ASD in children.

What is ARFID?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID, is an eating disorder that primarily affects infants, children, and adolescents, but can persist into adulthood. The condition used to be referred to as “selective eating disorder,” but this term has been phased out in favor of the term ARFID. Unlike other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, individuals with ARFID do not have distorted body image or fear of gaining weight. Rather, ARFID is characterized by an extremely limited range of accepted foods, causing deficiencies in essential nutrients, weight loss, and significant psychosocial impairment.

How does ARFID Co-occur with OCD in Children?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a mental health condition that commonly co-occurs with ARFID in children. OCD is a disorder in which the individual experiences intrusive thoughts or images that cause anxiety or distress, followed by compulsive behaviors they feel they must perform to alleviate the anxiety. It is not uncommon for individuals with OCD to struggle with food-related obsessions and compulsions, such as fearing germs or contamination in food and excessive food preparation measures. Children with OCD and ARFID may struggle with difficulty trying new foods due to contamination fears or rigid preferences. As both conditions can lead to malnutrition and psychological distress, a coordinated treatment plan between mental health and nutrition professionals is essential.

How does ARFID Co-occur with ASD in Children?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by deficits in social communication and repetitive behavior patterns. Studies suggest that over 75 percent of children with ASD experience feeding difficulties, and up to 50 percent meet the criteria for ARFID. Children with ASD and ARFID may experience challenges in accepting food based on sensory, textural, or taste preferences, leading to nutritional deficiencies and negative impacts on their quality of life. As with OCD, a coordinated approach between nutrition professionals and mental health practitioners can be helpful in developing targeted feeding plans that support children with ASD and ARFID to achieve adequate nutrition.

Evidence-Based ARFID Treatment and Therapy in Orlando

If you suspect your child has ARFID or are currently struggling with this condition yourself, seeking help from a specialized treatment center is crucial. At GroundWork in Orlando, we offer evidence-based treatments for ARFID, OCD, and ASD to help individuals achieve full recovery. Treatment modalities include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Family-Based support and education. Our team of experienced therapists will work with you and your child to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the unique challenges presented by ARFID. With proper treatment, individuals with ARFID can learn to expand their food repertoire, improve their nutrition, and ultimately improve their overall quality of life.

Next Steps & Getting Help

ARFID, OCD, and ASD can co-occur in children, leading to potentially severe health and psychological impacts. It is important to recognize that ARFID is a distinct disorder requiring targeted treatment interventions from health professionals versed in the unique challenges of food acceptance. As such, early identification and proper diagnosis are crucial. The co-occurrence of ARFID with OCD or ASD can pose added complexity to the treatment plan, requiring a coordinated multidisciplinary team approach to ensure proper medical, nutrition, and psychological support. By working together with a trained therapist, children with ARFID, OCD, and ASD achieve an improved quality of life, adequate nutrition, and a healthy relationship with food. When seeking therapy its important to consider a therapists expertise, training and certification; it is important to seek a therapist that practices from an evidence-based approach and specializes in treating disordered eating. If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of ARFID, OCD, and/or ASD, reach out to GroundWork today for specialized treatment options in Orlando.

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