People of all ages, races, sexual orientations, genders, socioeconomic statuses—all other demographic categorizations—can experience Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). However, the eating disorder is especially common in children and young adolescents.
Because ARFID is particularly common in younger populations, it is essential for all parents to be aware of the warning signs. If a child is showing signs of AFRID, getting them help as soon as possible is the best thing you can do for them.
In this blog, we will cover the definition of ARFID, the risk factors, the signs and symptoms to look for in children, and treatment options.
Charlotte Markey, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology and Health Sciences at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey. She has researched body image and eating behaviors for nearly 25 years, and is the author of The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless.
Charlotte joins us in this episode of Peace Meal to discuss adolescent body image. Offering research and practical insight into the multifaceted topic, she notes that body image encompasses far more than whether we like our bodies. She touches on its various dimensions and implications in the everyday lives of adolescents and teens.
The support of family and friends is key to the process of eating disorder recovery. It is an antidote to the isolation and secrecy of the illness, as well as a powerful, necessary reminder to our loved ones that they aren’t alone in their pain and struggle.
But it can be hard to know just how to support someone affected by eating disorders. These are complicated, confusing conditions that aren’t “fixed” with simple logic. “Just eat,” “just eat less,” or “just stop doing that” are unhelpful suggestions, as are guilt trips and ultimatums.
What else is there to say or do? Considering your loved one’s love language is a place to start.
Uncertainty is still all around us. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to raise questions over our finances, jobs, schools, and, of course, our health and the health of those we love. So much remains unknown.
During this long coronavirus blur, eating disorders have not gone away. Far from it. We may have shut down parts of our lives, but eating disorders have not loosened their grip. For some, the pandemic has only exacerbated issues with food and body. For others, it has introduced them, and for others still, it has complicated the already tough, circuitous process of recovering from an eating disorder.
Navigating a child’s eating disorder as a parent can be painful, confusing, and frustrating in the best of times. It’s demanding and it’s stressful. And in a trying year of tremendous turmoil, loss, and unpredictability? It may feel impossible. How can you support your child when racked with fear and anxiety yourself? How do you encourage healing in a world seemingly still so sick? How do you make any decisions or plans when the future is so unknown?
Starting eating disorder treatment can be scary for the individual affected—but it can also be a stressful time for parents. When your child experiences a negative food/body relationship, you may struggle to understand why. Their behaviors may seem perplexing and leave you feeling frustrated, afraid, and sad. The Emily Program understands that it’s difficult to watch someone you love struggle with an eating disorder. It’s also difficult to know how to comfort them.
Eating disorder treatment is a new experience, and like all new things, it can be scary at first. Prior to starting treatment, your child’s eating disorder behaviors may increase due to the stress and fear of starting treatment and confronting the eating disorder. Your child may experience dread, anger, anxiety, or depression. They may also experience relief upon knowing that they are on the road to recovery. All of these feelings are normal.
For parents, it’s important to be aware and present in the days or weeks before treatment. Make sure to check in with your child about how they are feeling or if they could use any specific support. Reassure them that treatment is a good idea because it will help them to live their best life. Be vocal about your support and be present when they share with you.
College can be a particularly triggering time when you’re living with an eating disorder, and navigating school with the illness can be incredibly challenging. With school comes freedom, new experiences, homework, stress, group meals, and more. All of these can cause additional strain on recovery, which is why it’s important to be mindful of your recovery. Despite these challenges, there are certain things you can do to prevent relapse and encourage recovery.
Living with an untreated eating disorder is extremely dangerous and stressful. Unfortunately, if left untreated, the illnesses often progress over time. Due to their worsening nature, it’s essential to get eating disorder treatment as soon as possible. We know that starting treatment, especially in the midst of school, is extremely challenging. However, some eating disorder treatment centers are able to provide a treatment plan to fit into your life. If you are concerned about the time commitment, know that treatment centers like The Emily Program can work with your schedule to ensure you get the care you deserve. By starting treatment, you can ensure a successful school year where you can focus on school instead of food, body, or image.
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