Debunking 6 Common Myths about ARFID

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a serious health condition in which the individual has no interest in food or avoids food because they do not like the taste, smell, or texture of it. Since people with ARFID eat so little, they often fail to meet their basic bodily needs. Moreover, the myths and misconceptions about the disorder keep people from getting the right help on time. Let’s debunk a few of those myths with facts and information.

Myth #1: ARFID Only Happens to Children

Even though ARFID is more common in children and teenagers, adults can also be diagnosed with this disorder. In most cases, ARFID in adults is caused by untreated childhood feeding issues or a long history of aversion to sensory elements of food, such as its texture, taste, or smell. An adult may also start exhibiting the signs of ARFID while receiving treatment. If you or a loved one is experiencing similar symptoms, you may need to contact an ARFID care facility for treatment.

Myth #2: ARFID is Nothing but Picky Eating

In reality, ARFID is way more complex than picky eating. It is, in fact, recognized as a mental health disorder. While picky eating is usually a phase that does not produce any major long-term effects, ARFID makes an individual avoid food to the point that it impacts the person’s growth and basic bodily functions. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) claims that children who show signs of picky eating may go on to develop ARFID.

Myth #3: People Who Have ARFID are Concerned About Weight Gain

When a person has ARFID, he/she is not concerned about weight gain. They avoid food because of an aversion to its texture, taste, or smell. Whether they want to or not, people with ARFID often lose weight due to food avoidance. According to NEDA, significant weight loss and wearing oversized clothing to hide low body weight are common signs of ARFID. Since this eating disorder shares some common symptoms with anorexia nervosa, people often confuse one with the other.

Myth #4: You Cannot Treat ARFID

A majority of people believe that eating disorders like ARFID cannot be treated, and they need to live with this condition for the rest of their lives. In reality, ARFID can be effectively treated, just like any other eating disorder or mental health condition. A recent study review reveals that ARFID treatment can help an individual improve their food consumption, reduce behavioral issues during mealtimes, and offer lasting benefits. In the said review, the most common treatments included weaning from tube feeding and behavioral interventions.

Myth #5: People with ARFID Eventually Outgrow the Condition

It would be a mistake to think that ARFID is just a phase. It is recognized as one of the most serious eating disorders that often lead to major physical and psychological consequences. Thus, it is necessary to get treatment for this condition. Without proper treatment and care, ARFID can result in serious consequences such as electrolyte imbalances and malnutrition, which eventually lead to death. Moreover, ARFID often comes with an irrational fear of aversion to certain characteristics (texture, taste, or smell) of food and anxiety around eating. These symptoms represent a mental health condition that individuals cannot outgrow. It needs proper treatment.

Myth #6: An Individual Has to Be Underweight to Have ARFID

Generally, underweight individuals tend to get more attention in the field of eating disorders than those who weigh neutral. While people with neutral weight often go under the radar, they may also suffer from ARFID. However, their eating disorder is often overlooked, and they are assumed to be picky eaters. In reality, they need treatment for the disorder as badly as an underweight person with ARFID.

The Takeaways

ARFID is more serious and complicated than just picky eating. While it is easy to confuse this eating disorder with picky eating, ARFID can have major physical and psychological consequences if not treated in time. If you or one of your loved ones are experiencing difficulty while eating, it is important to get checked and receive the right treatment from professionals.

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