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Kids With Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Need More Attention, Experts Say

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It was only two years ago - in May of 2013 - that Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The condition, which is often mistaken for anorexia, is an extreme form of "picky eating" - but one that goes beyond simple habits or preferences, experts say.

A new commentary on ARFID published in the Journal of Adolescent Health explores the diagnosis further, as well as the questions that remain about treatment and long-term outcomes.

ARFID includes a restrictive, challenging approach to food intake combined with weight loss - or delays in weight gain, for children - that is often related to psychosocial or physiological stress.

"ARFID is not just about picky eating - it's a very challenging diagnostic category in the DSM-5," said study co-author Dr. Debra Katzman, a Staff Physician in the Eating Disorders Program and Senior Associate Scientist at SickKids. "These kids have complexity, and this condition persists for long periods of time and requires treatment to address both the medical and psychosocial aspects of the condition. If left untreated, children and teens may be left with serious, long-term complications."

Parents: Don't let the problem persist

Study co-author Dr. Mark Norris said it's important for parents to recognize the underlying unhealthy patterns children exhibit when it comes to ARFID.

Left untreated, children with ARFID may experience more social and emotional challenges related to food, especially as they grow older.

"Concerned parents should talk to their child's pediatrician or family doctor early on, rather than letting the problem persist for months or even years," Norris said.

More information about the warning signs of ARFID can be found on the Eating Disorders Review's website.

Source: CHEO Research Institute

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