What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)?
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a feeding disturbance characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional or energy needs. The symptoms of ARFID are similar to anorexia nervosa, without a drive for thinness, and can lead to serious health consequences and medical complications.
ACUTE’s inpatient medical stabilization unit treats the most extreme forms of ARFID in which patients experience life-threatening medical complications. ACUTE is capable of treating these highly complex and fragile patients, many of whom have suffered greatly from widespread misunderstanding of severe ARFID in the greater medical community.
Symptoms of Severe ARFID
- BMI < 15
- Intentional caloric restriction resulting in weight loss
- Absence of drive for thinness
Types of ARFID
Sensory sensitivity, aversion or over-stimulation result in limited, inadequate diet
Aversive or fear-based experiences (ie. nausea, choking, vomiting, problems swallowing) contributes to food refusal
Apathy related to feeding or eating (low appetite, low interest); extreme pickiness prevents sufficient caloric/nutritional intake
Medical Complications of ARFID
Myocardial atrophy, mitral valve prolapse, pericardial effusion, sinus bradycardia, profound irreversible sinus node dysfunction, orthostatic hypotension, sudden cardiac death
Gastroparesis, constipation, superior mesenteric artery (SMA) syndrome, diarrhea, liver disease, functional bowel disorders
Spontaneous pneumothorax and pneumomediastinum, aspiration pneumonia, abnormal pulmonary function tests
Low White Blood Cell, Red Blood Cell, Platelet Counts
Multiple Endocrine Abnormalities
Low leptin levels, growth hormone resistance, elevated serum cortisol levels, euthyroid sick syndrome, hypoglycemia, amenorrhea
Loss of Muscle and Bone
Sarcopenia, bone loss (osteopenia and osteoporosis)
Generalized brain atrophy, cognitive deficits
Xerosis, acrocyanosis, lanugo hair growth, brittle hair and nails and unexplained hypercarotenemia
Facts about Severe ARFID
- Anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder are common psychiatric issues observed alongside ARFID.
- Widespread misunderstanding of the ARFID diagnosis has challenged the field to estimate prevalence.
- ARFID affects both genders; it may be more common in children and young adolescents but can occur in young and mature adults.
- ARFID can be misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa due to shared symptoms of low weight and malnutrition; the major difference between ARFID and anorexia is that patients with ARFID do not have a drive for thinness.
Learn More About Severe ARFID
Severe ARFID Research
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A physical education teacher, living an adventurous, active life abroad. A terrible accident. A traumatic brain injury. Partial blindness. A debilitating eating disorder. An inspiring recovery story.