In the course of children’s growth and development, there will come a time when children become fussy and picky individuals when it comes to food. This condition is known as picky eating.

Although for parents this period can feel very dizzying, this is actually normal for toddlers and usually doesn’t last long. However, in certain cases, some children can experience a more extreme condition and have an eating disorder, called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

What is ARFID?

ARFID is an eating disorder characterized by the desire to eat very small amounts of food. Some even avoid certain foods. This condition is relatively new. This disorder develops in the previous diagnostic category, namely infant and early childhood eating disorders.

Children with ARFID develop several types of problems eating food. This causes the child to avoid certain foods or even refuse to eat at all. As a result, they cannot get enough nutrition. This of course has an impact on nutritional deficiencies. In addition, the child’s growth will be delayed, and problems with weight gain occur.

In addition to health complications, children with ARFID will also have difficulty in school. Even some children have difficulty doing various activities. They may also have difficulty participating in social activities. Like eating with other people and maintaining relationships with other people.

ARFID usually appears in infancy or during childhood. This disorder can also persist into adulthood. At first, ARFID may seem like a picky eating habit. While it is common during childhood.

For example, many children refuse to eat vegetables or foods with a certain smell and consistency. However, this picky eating pattern usually goes away within a few months. Of course, this situation does not affect the growth of children. A child can be said to have ARFID if:

  • Eating disorders are not caused by indigestion or other medical conditions.
  • The eating disorder is not caused by a specific dietary deficiency or eating tradition.
  • The eating disorder is not caused by an eating disorder, such as bulimia.
  • The child’s weight gain does not match the normal weight gain curve for children his age.
  • No weight gain or significant weight loss in the past month.

If not treated promptly, ARFID disorders can lead to serious long-term complications. Therefore, it is important to immediately get an accurate diagnosis.

What are the Symptoms of ARFID?

Many of the signs of ARFID are similar to the symptoms that cause a child to be malnourished. Regardless, you should consult a doctor immediately if your child shows any of the following signs:

  • The child’s weight is below normal
  • Not eating as often or as much as you should
  • Easily irritated and cry a lot
  • Looks stressed and depressed
  • Difficult to defecate or seem in pain when doing it
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Does not have age-appropriate social skills and tends to stay away from other people.

Symptoms of ARFID are often mild. Sometimes appears to be a picky eater and may show no signs of malnutrition. However, you should still tell the doctor if your child has this eating habit.

What Causes ARFID?

The exact cause of the ARFID condition is unknown. However, researchers have identified certain risk factors for this disorder:

  • Male gender
  • Under 13 years old
  • Have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as heartburn and constipation
  • Food allergies.

Most cases of excess weight gain and malnutrition are caused by digestive system disorders. However, in some cases, there are also those caused by non-medical conditions. For example due to the child’s inadequate eating habits:

  • The child is afraid or stressed about something
  • Child is afraid to eat because of a past traumatic incident, such as choking or severe vomiting
  • The child does not receive a good psychological and emotional response or treatment from parents or caregivers. For example, the child may feel afraid because the parent is too temperamental or is depressed
  • Children do not like food with a certain texture, taste, or aroma.

How is ARFID Handling?

In emergency situations, hospitalization may be required. When treated, the child will be given adequate nutrition through an IV. In addition, this type of eating disorder also needs to be treated with nutritional counseling. Regular appointments with the therapist should also be held. This therapy can help children in overcoming the disorder.

Children will also usually be advised to follow a certain diet or take nutritional supplements. This is done to help increase the recommended weight while undergoing treatment.

At certain times, children may be picky about food. However, this condition should not be left alone, especially if it lasts for a long time. This is because this condition can lead to the ARFID eating disorder.

ARFID that is not handled immediately will have an impact on the child’s growth and development process. Therefore, be sure to always pay attention and consult the doctor regarding the child’s diet.