Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) And Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder impacting thousands of individuals that can occur along with a substance use disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment is the best option for individuals suffering with co-occurring disorders.

Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021
Dual Diagnosis Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder And Addiction

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder impacting thousands of individuals.

Substance use disorders can co-occur with other medical conditions and disorders, including ARFID.

Dual diagnosis treatment programs are often the best option for people with substance addiction and eating disorders.

Dual diagnosis treatment often involves an integrated approach that addresses the separate and underlying factors of both disorders in order to achieve recovery.

Find out more about dual diagnosis eating disorders and addiction

What Is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that is oftentimes defined as picky eating.

People with this condition may fear certain foods and exhibit extreme control over what foods they consume.

This disorder differs from individuals with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. ARFID disorder has nothing to do with body image or fear of gaining weight.

People with this eating disorder become concerned over food temperature, a fear of choking, or becoming sick when eating new foods with different taste, texture, and color.

Symptoms Of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder disorder is characterized by fears and food limitations that negatively affect social interactions, behavior, and one’s way of life.

Similar to anorexia or bulimia, people with ARFID may avoid social events or socializing to avoid exposure to various kinds of food. They may also attempt to hide the condition out of fear.

Symptoms can include:

  • having a restricted and short list of acceptable foods
  • restricting food to items with similar texture, colors, or kinds
  • strict preferences for food preparation methods
  • avoidance of certain foods or food groups
  • strict elimination of certain foods
  • inability to gain weight
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • stress and emotional distress when exposed to unfamiliar foods
  • food restriction affects other areas of social life

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Signs Of Drug Or Alcohol Abuse

It is possible for individuals with ARFID to also struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse also exhibits certain signs that may indicate a larger issue.

Signs of alcohol or drug abuse may include:

  • intentionally concealing drug or alcohol use
  • taking prescription medications without a prescription, or in a way not intended by an overseeing physician
  • behavioral changes
  • weight loss
  • avoidance of loved ones
  • isolating behaviors
  • inability to meet social or professional obligations
  • poor hygiene or physical health
  • inability to stop using drugs or alcohol

Common signs of substance abuse may vary and depend on the substance of abuse.

What Causes Co-Occurring Addiction And ARFID?

The underlying causes of these co-occurring disorders can be attributed to a variety of varying factors.

Co-occurring conditions may increase the risk of substance use in people with ARFID.

Someone with ARFID may use alcohol or drugs because substances reduce stressful emotions.

While an individual may believe substance abuse will treat the underlying symptoms of an eating disorder, they often lead to adverse reactions.

Shared risk factors for AFRID and substance abuse include:

  • genetic factors
  • family history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • unstable background
  • exposure to trauma
  • unstable emotional health
  • inability to manage stress

Individuals with this eating disorder may attempt to self-treat symptoms of an eating disorder with drugs and alcohol, or use these substances to decrease appetite.

Further, people diagnosed with ARFID may suffer from other mental health conditions.

Other co-occurring mental health conditions that may present with this eating disorder include:

  • general anxiety disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

How Common Is Substance Abuse And ARFID?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a new diagnosis published in the DSM-5 and there is limited research for people with the condition.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and addiction statistics:

  • Prevalence: The prevalence rates of ARFID are currently unknown. According to specialist psychiatric and medical setting reporting, the condition is known to present in between 5–13%.
  • Self-medication: Self-medicating symptoms of ARFID may be an underlying contributor to the development of substance use disorder.
  • Treatment: research indicates only about 18 percent of substance abuse treatment programs and nine percent of mental health treatment organizations have the capacity to serve dually diagnosed patients.

Unfortunately, thousands of people struggle with co-occurring disorders. Many may go on to be misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, or struggle to find appropriate treatment.

Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment For ARFID And Addiction

When an individual has a co-occurring eating disorder and substance use disorder, finding treatment that addresses the underlying causes of both conditions may prove challenging.

Dual diagnosis treatment often involves an integrated treatment approach that incorporates medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment to achieve recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment may involve:

  • medical or psychiatric care
  • supported detoxification
  • group or family therapy
  • medication

Research indicates that the integrated treatment approach for co-occurring disorders is highly effective.

Inpatient or outpatient dual diagnosis treatment is offered by several mental health and addiction treatment centers.

Our helpline provides assistance for:

  • locating dual diagnosis treatment centers
  • health insurance verification
  • discussing treatment options
  • finding the right treatment program

If you or a loved one has ARFID or addiction, contact us today to find out more about dual diagnosis treatment.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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