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ARFID – the diagnosis that explains why some children can’t or won’t eat like other children

Many children are picky eaters, and nearly every child goes through periods where they have difficulty with food. There is even an evolutionary instinct to be careful with certain foods as a young child.

This means that if your child is a picky eater, there isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. However, if your child’s hesitance to certain foods has a significant negative impact on them, it might be time to seek professional help. As of 2013, there is a diagnosis called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), which explains why certain children do not want to eat. It is distinct from other eating disorders because the avoidance of food is not related to body image or weight concerns. 

There are three main types of ARFID. The first is just being uninterested in food. In this case, the child might say that they get full quickly or don’t want to eat. The second type is sensory avoidance, which means that they might not like the taste, texture, or smell of the food. The final type of ARFID is a fear of aversive consequences. For example, someone might worry about choking, or becoming sick or nauseous. 

Some side effects of ARFID are weight loss, nutritional deficiency, dependence on nutritional supplements, and interference with daily functioning. A diagnosis of ARFID also requires that there are no other explanations for the avoidance of food, such as body image concerns, a cultural practice, or a medical condition. It is also different from being picky because picky eaters eventually outgrow it, meaning that there are no long-term consequences. With ARFID, the child will not grow out of the pickiness without professional support, meaning it can have long-term consequences. 

The good news is that ARFID is treatable. Check out this blog post to learn more about what you can do to help your child with ARFID. Most importantly, reach out to a professional for help. A professional can work with you to develop the best treatment plan for your child. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Psykologiteamet if you suspect your child might be suffering from ARFID.

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