Understanding Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Symptoms

Living with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) differs from simply being a picky eater. While someone may describe a person’s eating habits by saying that they are picky due to ARFID, the condition can come with health complications and significantly impact a person’s life.

Since ARFID is talked about less than other common eating disorders, there is not as much awareness. The condition often goes overlooked. Increased awareness and the prevalence of eating disorder screening tests or tools can help people learn about ARFID symptoms and what to look for.

So, can an ARFID quiz help you identify the condition in yourself or a loved one? First, let’s define ARFID as a condition. Then, we’ll go through a checklist of ARFID symptoms, discuss the role of eating disorder screening tests, and go over treatment options at Icarus Behavioral Health for ARFID.

What is ARFID?

ARFID - Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

ARFID is an eating disorder where people limit the types or amount of food they eat for reasons unrelated to appearance or the desire for weight loss. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, including children and adults.

ARFID can be presented in different ways. A person with ARFID may avoid eating certain foods due to their sensory characteristics, avoid eating foods that they fear will harm them (through choking, gastrointestinal problems, etc.), or may lack interest in food to the point that it is detrimental to their health.

One of the most vital things to understand about ARFID is that it is not a body image-based eating disorder. ARFID is very serious and can affect your physical and mental health dramatically. However, people with ARFID do not restrict or attempt to control their food intake for weight loss as a person with anorexia nervosa or another eating disorder might.

For example, a person may only eat a particular brand of certain foods or have a limited list of foods they can eat. If you have ARFID or another potential eating disorder, it is not your fault, and treatment can help.

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Take Our ARFID Quiz: Know the Signs and Symptoms

An ARFID test or quiz is a set of questions that can help you better understand your experiences. Knowing the signs of ARFID can help you identify it in yourself or someone you love. Identifying ARFID may be the first step toward getting help for the condition. That is the role of a screening tool like the one below.

Please note that an online ARFID quiz is not a formal diagnostic tool. A healthcare professional such as a psychiatrist or primary care physician can assess for, diagnose, and treat ARFID. If you are an incoming client, our staff members can give you an evaluation for conditions like ARFID.

With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you may have ARFID:

  1. Do I avoid eating certain foods, have limited food preferences, or live with abnormal picky eating habits?
  2. Do my limited eating habits affect my social life or health? For example, do I have health complications (such as nutritional deficiencies) or struggle to find foods I can eat at restaurants when with other people?
  3. Do I fear that I will get sick if I eat foods I currently avoid, even if it is not necessarily true?
  4. Do I avoid eating foods based on their appearance or texture?
  5. Do I feel anxious about or dislike trying new foods?
  6. Do I feel a lack of interest in food or have a poor appetite?
  7. Are my eating behaviors not better attributed to another condition (e.g., anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa)?

If you are concerned that you may have ARFID based on your symptoms, please contact Icarus Behavioral Health for an assessment. We can discuss your treatment options with you and answer any questions you might have about treatment.

How an Eating Disorder Screening Can Help

Substantial weight loss due to ARFID

An eating disorder screening may not be a diagnostic tool, but it can push you to pursue a diagnosis and get treatment. Largely, this is the role of tools like an online ARFID test. For those with ARFID or another potential eating disorder, getting help matters.

If left untreated, symptoms of ARFID can lead to malnutrition and other consequences. For example:

  • Substantial weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain in children).
  • A dependence on oral nutritional supplements or enteral feeding.
  • Marked interference with social situations and functioning.
  • Nutrient deficiencies.

Not everyone with ARFID or another eating disorder will lose weight from their condition, nor is weight loss required for consequences like malnutrition to impact your life. If you experience an aversion to certain foods to the extent that it affects your life, it is time to ask for help.

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Treating ARFID vs Other Eating Disorders

There are important treatment considerations providers must make when addressing ARFID. First, it is vital that providers understand how the condition affects each unique client. If a client avoids foods with certain textures, their diet may consist of a very limited number of items when they enter care.

Using steps to try new foods is a common practice in treating ARFID, especially for those who avoid foods based on things like color, texture, taste, smell, or lack of familiarity. On the other hand, if a person has fears surrounding certain foods (or many foods), unpacking the fears and using exposure therapy with the help of a trained professional can be valuable.

Whereas many treatment centers do not understand ARFID or treat the condition, our experts are equipped to understand and address ARFID symptoms. Here are some additional treatment considerations for providers addressing ARFID vs. other eating disorders.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Those who score high on an ARFID test and indicate a need for treatment may have one or more co-occurring conditions. For example, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), anxiety disorders, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are all common in people with ARFID. Understanding and addressing co-occurring concerns can be a critical part of treatment.

Traumatic Experiences

Some people with ARFID will have had traumatic experiences. For example, they may have experienced a very real allergic reaction or had other adverse experiences (such as vomiting or choking) after eating a certain food at some point in their life, which then led to the avoidance of many other foods.

What are Considered Effective ARFID Treatment Options?

ARFID Treatment

Icarus Behavioral Health offers the following levels of care for mental health. During the admissions process at Icarus in New Mexico, you will work with our admissions team to determine which level of care is right for you.

Inpatient or Residential Eating Disorder Treatment

Inpatient treatment is the most intensive form of care used for eating disorders and other mental health conditions. Clients in inpatient treatment eat, sleep, and live at their treatment center for the duration of their program.

During inpatient treatment, your schedule will consist of regular groups, individual therapy, recreation, and other treatments, such as family therapy or medication management, if needed.

Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are considered the most intensive form of outpatient treatment and are one step below inpatient care. PHP clients live off-site but commute to their treatment center regularly throughout the week, often on all or most weekdays. Activities and treatments used are similar to those in inpatient care.

Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP

Intensive outpatient is less intensive than PHP. The difference between PHP and IOP is that IOP clients will attend care for fewer total hours per week. IOP allows for increased flexibility, which can make it ideal for those who need to work, attend school, or care for their families while in treatment.

Outpatient and Aftercare Services

Outpatient is the least intensive form of mental health treatment. The time commitment required for outpatients can be as low as a few hours per week. As a result, it’s most often used for those with minor symptoms or who are transitioning out of a higher level of care.

Reach Out to Icarus for Eating Disorder Treatment Programs

Eating Disorder Treatment Programs

If you suspect that you have avoidant restrictive food intake disorder after taking an ARFID test or quiz, we can help. When you contact Icarus Behavioral Health, our staff members will help you verify insurance coverage, book a tour, or answer your treatment questions. To reach us, call the phone number on our website today.

All calls are confidential, so please reach out to get options in confidence now!

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FAQs on ARFID Quiz Results and Treatment Options

Is ARFID a form of OCD?

ARFID can affect your eating habits for more reasons than one. For example, a person with ARFID could find it tough to eat food due to texture, fear of adverse consequences, or lack of interest in food. ARFID is not a form of OCD, but it is very common for people to have OCD if they meet the criteria for ARFID.

Is ARFID part of autism?

Similar to OCD, ARFID symptoms are more common in people with ASD, and it is possible to have a diagnosis of both ASD and ARFID. Likely, this is due to the sensory issues seen in ASD. However, ARFID itself is not a part of autism.

Is ARFID part of ADHD?

Like with OCD and ASD, ARFID is not a part of ADHD. Instead, ADHD is another common co-occurring condition.

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