Aren't you just a fussy eater?

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New Online Wellbeing Editor Marina Afzal-Khan discusses the mental health condition ‘Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder’ more commonly known as ARFID.

Raising awareness of mental health issues is a long task as there is an extremely large list. However, it is such an important task as it enables us to be more aware of lesser known mental health conditions suffered by students. ARFID is one of these.

When attending events such as formal dinners, most of my peers may worry about what they will wear, but I sit there with anxiety, wondering 'What if I am not able to eat the food?'

The question in the title is something I get asked very frequently, because I struggle eating certain foods. This can cause problems in my everyday life such as friends feeling that they have to cater to my limited dietary needs, consequently affecting social situations. When attending events such as formal dinners, most of my peers may worry about what they will wear, but I sit there with anxiety, wondering 'What if I am not able to eat the food?'

‘Why can’t you just eat it? All you have to do is chew the food and swallow it?’
‘But, it tastes nice!’
‘Why do you always eat the same foods?’
‘There’s hardly anything on your plate!’

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Photo by Epigram / Marina Afzal-Khan

ARFID is a new diagnosis in the DSM-5 which explains why it is less commonly known. It was previously referred to as ‘Selective Eating Disorder’, and is more likely to be developed by children who don't outgrow their picky eating habits. During puberty, appetite and eating flexibility increases. However, in these cases, children do not grow out of their narrow range of foods.

ARFID involves limitations in the types and amounts of food but does not have anything to do with distress about the way you perceive your body. It is usually to do with the texture, taste and appearance of certain types of foods that may cause the individual to develop feelings of fear, shame and anxiety, especially when trying new food. Some individuals would dress in extra layers to hide their weight loss. It can lead to problems at school, at work and difficulties eating with others.

{ARFID} does not have anything to do with distress about the way you perceive your body. It is usually to do with the texture, taste and appearance of certain types of foods that may cause the individual to develop feelings of fear, shame and anxiety

In terms of physical health concerns, this means that individuals may not get all the nutrients or calories that they need due to the restrictive eating. This can cause dramatic weight loss and lead to an overall lack of appetite. It has similar physical health consequences to Anorexia as it involves an inability to meet nutritional needs such as menstrual irregularities, sleep problems, fainting and dizziness.

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Photo by Epigram / Marina Afzal-Khan

ARFID can have serious consequences. There is help available and you can speak to the student health service to get more information. When ARFID is more well known, I hope to see people who suffer from it feel understood by the people around them.

Featured Image: Epigram / Marina Afzal-Khan


If you feel that you may be suffering from ARFID or anything similar, do not hesitate to get in touch with Epigram Wellbeing so we can tell you who to contact, or to call the student health services at 0117 954 6655

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