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ARFID - Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

What is ARFID? ARFID is an eating or feeding disturbance that is characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs. It is the second most common eating disorder in children 12 years and younger but unfortunately largely under diagnosed: 63% of pediatricians are unfamiliar with this diagnosis.

It describes individuals whose symptoms do not match the criteria for traditional eating disorder diagnoses (no fear of weight gain), but who experience clinically significant struggles with eating and food: difficulty digesting certain foods, avoiding certain colors or textures of food, eating only very small portions or being afraid to eat to the extent that they are not getting enough to eat and/or become impaired psycho-socially.

ARFID is more than just “picky eating”; children do not grow out of it and often become malnourished because of the limited variety of foods they will eat.

Who gets it?

  • The true prevalence of ARFID is still being studied, but preliminary estimates suggest it may affect as many as 5% of children. 
  • ARFID is the second most common eating disorder in children 12 years and younger. 
  • Roughly 20% of individuals with ARFID are males. 
  • 80% of the children with developmental disorders have symptoms of ARFID.
  • It's mainly a disorder of early childhood but can be diagnosed past age 6 and in adolescents and adults.

What causes it?

Like other eating disturbances, there is no singular cause of ARFID. However, the evolving scientific literature suggests that this pattern of disordered eating develops from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors. A majority of children’s ARFID symptoms have been triggered by a trauma: chocking, food poisoning and vomiting.

What are the symptoms?

1. Based on the sensory characteristics of food; concern about aversive consequences of eating) as manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one (or more) of the following:

  • Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children).
  • Significant nutritional deficiency.
  • Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements.
  • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning.

1. The disturbance is not better explained by lack of available food or by an associated culturally sanctioned practice.

It’s also important to understand what ARFID is not. It is not:

  • Associated with body image issues or any abnormalities related to how one perceives their body weight or shape
  • The result of lack of available food

How is it treated?

The health risks and developmental consequences for children and adolescents with ARFID can be serious and long lasting. As a further complication, ARFID is difficult to accurately diagnose. Assessment by a clinical professional trained in the disorder is essential. ACPN offers specialized treatment for children, adolescents and adults struggling with ARFID.

At ACPN, treatment for ARFID begins with a comprehensive assessment to determine the type and other core issues, including medical stabilization, psychiatric stabilization, nutritional rehabilitation and weight restoration (when appropriate).

A key component of ARFID treatment at ACPN is education of patients and parents about the diagnosis, interventions, treatment expectations and treatment goals. ACPN brings expertise in all specialty areas and a multidisciplinary treatment team alignment: GP, psychotherapist, nutritionist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist and speech therapist.

Our trained team uses principles of psycho-education, nutritional therapy, Motivational-Interviewing (MI), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Family-Based Therapy (FBT) to provide a comprehensive treatment.

Multi Disciplinary Team

Carine el Khazen Hadati
Carine el Khazen Hadati

Clinical Psychologist, Director of ED Program

Dubai

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Maya Fleifel Sidani
Maya Fleifel Sidani

Clinical Psychologist

Dubai

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Hala Abu Taha
Hala Abu Taha

Dietitian

Abu Dhabi and Dubai

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Dr. George Sawers
Dr. George Sawers

General Practitioner

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Najwan Al-Roubaiy
Dr. Najwan Al-Roubaiy

Psychologist, Head of Psychology Team - Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Junaid Hassim
Dr. Junaid Hassim

Clinical Psychologist

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Samra Tahir
Dr. Samra Tahir

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Samer Makhoul
Dr. Samer Makhoul

Consultant Psychiatrist, Deputy CMO, Head of Psychiatry Department

Abu Dhabi

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Dr. Nasser El Hindy
Dr. Nasser El Hindy

Consultant Psychiatrist, Medical Director

Dubai

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