ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder) is a “newer” eating disorder that the mental health community is only just beginning to take seriously. ARFID is a unique eating disorder in the sense that it affects the brain and other senses in ways that are atypical to other eating disorders (such as bulimia and anorexia). ARFID often involves other senses like one’s sense of taste, feeling, and smell.
ARFID often involves physical symptoms like gagging, vomiting, increased respirations (faster breathing), and an increase in heart beat. It is often associated with things like panic attacks (or anxiety attacks) as well as a powerful phobia of trying new foods. No one knows why ARFID arises (many theorize it’s a combination of genetics and enviornment).
For myself, I believe my ARFID came from my horrible experience in an Eastern Eurpoean orphanage. I was fed food with very poor nutritional value. I suspect what happened in my infant brain was that it figured “If I don’t eat this, I will starve to death.” It left a lasting, traumatizing imprint on my baby brain.
Growing up I was exceptionally picky. My parents thought it was a phase I would grow out of. However, this never happened. My “pickiness” stuck with me, well into adulthood (and continues to stick around with me). It was not until recently, however, when my anxiety has shown physical symptoms associated with my ARFID.
I wasn’t until the past few months that I started having panic attacks over plates of food. It wasn’t until recently that I would start gagging on food that I had previously deemed my “safe” food (food that I could eat without worrying about my ARFID). It wasn’t until recently until my brain started associated illogical, malicious throughts with food (safe or unsafe).
ARFID has made me think “this food is poisoned” and “this food has knives in it”. When thinking about my ARFID, I’ve often associated it with being attacked by mutant pirannahs (like from the cult horror movie Pirannah).
The worst part is that I know it’s irrational and I know the food isn’t actually poisoned or have sharp metal in it that could tear me up from the inside out. That doesn’t stop the malicious thoughts, however.
Somedays are worse than others. Some days, I don’t really think about my eating disorder. Other days, I will be sitting down to dinner only to have a full blown panic attack and be able to barely keep myself from sobbing. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have my eating disorder. This is why “recovery” just doesn’t seem plausible to me.