ARFID

ARFID: How NEDA Helped me Treat it During College Days?

 

Last year, I was diagnosed with a very unusual and rare eating disorder, ARFID. Do you know what that is? I am pretty sure most of you are not aware of it just like me. It was only until I got awareness and help from NEDA that I realized the severity of my condition.

I would like to share my experience of suffering from ARFID and how NEDA or other resources can help you treat the illness effectively. We hear people talk about anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating –but rare eating disorders are not talked about enough. It does not mean that they are less important. If we successfully create awareness about these, we might be able to save lives. I have no clue if I would still be able to walk around and carry on with my life if I had not found out about ARFID in time.

So what if ARFID?

It is an Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Up until 2013, it used to be called “Selective Eating Disorder”. People suffering from this eating disorder are quite ‘picky’ about their diet. They only go for their comfort food. They are not able to eat or swallow certain foods. If tried, they choke and fear they might die. This happens because of a hypersensitive somatic response. It could be due to genetics, environment, traumatic childhood experience with certain foods. Not much research has been done on ARFID yet and that is why it is dangerous. With very less knowledge, it is difficult to treat the condition.

The disorder is seen in both genders but it is relatively common in males. And it usually presents in children. But if left untreated, it can progress to adult life as well. 63 percent of the ARFID patients are children. Prevalence in the general population is still not known.

ARFID is a lot of times confused with anorexia. But the two are much different. In ARFID, the person is not ‘insecure’ about their body image. They don’t refrain from eating because they are afraid of getting fat. They simply cannot chew or go near certain food items and their smell. It is a long-term illness, unlike anorexia. And it is strongly linked with ADHD, OCD, and anxiety.

I am a medical student and I have studied all about anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia. But I had never heard about ARFID or seen any patient suffering from it in our wards. Since childhood, I had trouble eating meals. I was that kid whose parents were worried about me because I was never able to finish my meals.

My parents would try so hard to give me more protein but the smell of eggs made me nauseous. Even when they tried to feed me, I would choke on it. I was also hesitant to eat certain vegetables. But we never realized that it was serious.

Over time my situation became worse. When I went out to have dinner with my friends or family, the smell of food in restaurants made me want to puke. I would fall sick and go home. It seemed a little abnormal but I kept ignoring it. I just thought that maybe it is because I don’t want to eat these things. My friends would ask me to try new dishes but I was never able to. I would always turn to my comfort food –white bread, fries, pizza, nuggets, pasta, and cereals. That is all I survived on. I had this deep-rooted fear in my head that I would die choking if I tried anything other than my comfort food.

One day I came across a post on social media about ARFID. I did not know about NEDA then. They had made a post about what is ARFID. It was an awareness promo. I read a few symptoms they had listed and it got me reading the whole post. That was it! My disorder had a name and NEDA helped me identify it. They had added their website like and so I immediately clicked it.

They had an entire blog about different eating disorders. I went to the ARFID section and spent my entire evening reading about it. They had listed all the signs and symptoms of ARFID, diagnosis criteria, risk factors, and management plan. I also read a few success stories with NEDA on the website. Other people had shared experiences with various eating disorders. It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one who had fear of eating certain things.

I browsed the entire website and found answers to my long-ignored queries. What is ARFID? How do I know if I have it or not? What can I do about it? When should I seek help? What is the treatment of my eating disorder and how successful is it?

All of these details were mentioned on the NEDA website. It made me realize that I should get help before the disorder progresses even more. It could not carry on with avoiding food for entire life. ARFID had affected my life to the extent that I suffered from malnutrition and poor weight gain since childhood.

Along with that, I had hormonal imbalance, poor sleep-wake cycle, fatigue, poor concentration, and energy levels. After reading the NEDA blog, I was so happy and excited to get help and finally break the cycle of poor eating.

I searched for the nearest therapist and started getting one on one therapy for ARFID. The therapy was intense in the beginning but I started seeing results in a month. It took me 5-6 months to start gaining some weight. All of the problems I had due to ARFID were beginning to go away. I felt like a normal human being.

My family and friends supported me throughout and NEDA provided me with all the relevant information and resources that I needed to get better. I still remember when I used to avoid social gatherings because of my eating disorder. But now I am able to eat healthier snacks and meals.

In the end, I want to mention a few ways that NEDA can help you through your journey as well.

Awareness and Knowledge

NEDA has a whole website and several blogs where they post true stories and informative articles. They have covered all the eating disorders on their website –common or uncommon. The blogs proved so helpful for me as I had zero ideas about ARFID before. But thanks to NEDA, now I know. And once I was aware, I could choose a perfect management plan for myself.

When to Seek Help for ARFID

When suffering from any mental disorder, it is hard to know where the line is drawn? One cannot tell when he’s just feeling that way because of a mood swing or is it because of a serious disorder? What risk does it pose to one’s health? When should one reach out for professional help?

I wasn’t aware of any of these issues. But once I read the danger signs about ARFID on the NEDA website, I realized that if I did not get therapy right now, it might be too late in the future.

Treatment Plan for ARFID

NEDA helped me find where to look for help for my eating disorder. It has a database of therapists all across the United States who can help with respective eating disorders. Personally, I found this quite helpful as finding a good therapist on google can be useless.

In addition to that, it also provided information about an entire treatment plan. What happens on the first visit and how many visits it might take? How does the therapy work and help each individual? You can find all the information on NEDA. They also have annual awareness walks and conferences for the affected people and their families.

If you are someone who is suffering from ARFID or any eating disorder, I suggest you read more about I NEDA. It will provide you with all the knowledge that you need to cure your illness. You should lose hope just yet.

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