What Is ARFID, An Eating Disorder Related To Signs Of Trauma And Stress?

by Tejashee Kashyap
What Is ARFID, An Eating Disorder Related To Signs Of Trauma  And Stress?

Food is not merely a source of sustenance; it carries with it emotional and psychological significance. Our relationship with food is complex and multifaceted, influenced by various factors. On the other end of the spectrum, intense trauma can also lead to a loss of appetite and emotional numbness. Well, there is a relationship between selective eating disorder, specially ARFID and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What Is ARFID?

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Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is a new DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis that was formerly known as “Selective Eating Disorder.” ARFID is an eating disorder described by persistent food avoidance or restriction, resulting in considerable weight loss, nutritional deficits, and/or impairment in physical or psychological functioning. It is a complex and often misunderstood eating disorder characterized by significant limitations in food intake.

ARFID can manifest in various ways, with individuals exhibiting a range of symptoms and behaviours. Some common patterns include avoiding specific food textures, colours, smells, or tastes. The disorder can have a profound impact on an individual’s physical and psychological well-being, as well as their overall quality of life.

Diagnosing ARFID can be challenging, as the disorder often goes unrecognized or is misdiagnosed. It is crucial to differentiate it from other eating disorders or medical conditions that may present with similar symptoms.

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How Is Trauma & Stress Related To This Eating Disorder?

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The causes of ARFID are multifactorial and not yet fully understood. Intense trauma can inflict profound and lasting wounds on an individual’s relationship with food.  There may be a combination of genetic, neurobiological, psychological, and environmental factors that contribute to the development of the disorder. In certain circumstances, there is a relationship between ARFID and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Traumatic experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, accidents, or other extremely traumatic occurrences, can have a dramatic influence on a person’s relationship with food and eating. Trauma can cause increased anxiety, dread, and aversions, such as aversions to certain meals or eating settings. These phobias and anxieties can lead to the onset or worsening of ARFID symptoms.

It is crucial to emphasise that not all people with ARFID have a history of trauma or acquire PTSD, and not all people with PTSD develop ARFID. However, trauma might contribute to the development of ARFID or hinder the treatment process in some people.

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