Food Anxiety: How ARFID impacts children and families in a surprising way

Rockville, Maryland – Hannah, a young girl from the city, struggled with a unique and lesser-known eating disorder called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). This disorder, unlike anorexia or bulimia nervosa, focuses on the limited range of foods that individuals feel comfortable eating, rather than body shape or size. Hannah’s journey with ARFID started when she was just 7 years old and expressed her desire to overcome her fear of food to her parents.

Michelle, Hannah’s mother, noticed early signs of ARFID when trying to transition her daughter from formula to solids and milk. Hannah’s refusal to eat certain foods and her picky eating habits gradually escalated to the point where she would only consume a small list of specific items, like green sour cream and onion Pringles in small packs.

Experts like Kate Dansie, clinical director of the Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland, emphasize the debilitating nature of ARFID, which can lead to long-term health issues. Despite affecting a smaller percentage of the population compared to other eating disorders, ARFID can have significant impacts on individuals of all ages.

Dr. Stuart Murray, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, highlights the importance of early intervention in addressing ARFID. Therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), has been effective in helping individuals expand their food choices and overcome their aversions. Families of individuals with ARFID play a crucial role in providing support and creating a positive environment around food.

As Hannah embarked on her treatment journey, Michelle observed significant progress in her daughter’s willingness to try new foods and expand her list of safe foods. Through perseverance and support, Hannah’s confidence grew, leading to a positive outlook on her relationship with food. The ultimate goal remains to equip Hannah with the necessary tools to navigate her relationship with food as she grows older.