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Raising awareness for ARFID this Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week, the UK’s eating disorder charity, Beat, has urged NHS leaders to prioritise specialist treatment for the eating disorder Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Beat’s research found that there is a significant lack of information around which eating disorder services in England provide ARFID support, which could lead to additional confusion and distress from those seeking help.

In 2018, Beat’s Helpline received 295 calls for support with ARFID or 2% of total calls.

This figure rose in 2023 to 2054 calls, or 10% of its total calls for the year. 

This represented seven times more calls about the serious condition than five years ago.

Additionally, of the estimated 55 NHS Trusts or Community Interest Companies which provide eating disorder services for children and young people, 44 (80%) were unclear on their websites as to whether any of them provide or support treatment for patients with ARFID.   

In adult eating disorder services, 38 (78%) NHS adult eating disorder service providers were unclear as to whether any of them would be able to support ARFID patients.

Beat’s Director of External Affairs, Tom Quinn said: “Eating Disorders Awareness Week is the perfect time to shine a light on a particular eating disorder or topic which affects the people we support. 

Quinn stated that the reason ARFID was chosen to raise awareness was to highlight the misconception that ARFID is just picky-eating.

Quinn said: “People with ARFID severely restrict the amount of food they eat, avoid certain types of food, or both.

“Those unwell often worry that they will choke or be sick, feel overwhelmed by particular textures, smells or tastes, or have a lack of interest in food. 

“This year we’re focusing on ARFID because we’ve had a sevenfold increase in helpline calls about this serious condition, and sadly we know that ARFID is much less well known than other eating disorders.

“It can feel incredibly distressing to experience ARFID, and the lack of awareness can mean that many people struggle on their own without any support.

“Sadly we too often hear from people who are facing long waiting times or struggling to access care close to home.”

Beat’s Chief Executive, Andrew Radford said: “It’s extremely worrying that there has been such a dramatic increase in those seeking support for ARFID, particularly as specialist care isn’t always readily available.

“All too often we hear from people who have been unable to get treatment close to home, or have faced waits of months or even years to get the help they need.  

“ARFID is an eating disorder that rarely gets the attention it deserves, and it’s unacceptable that that seems to apply to funding, too.”

What is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is a condition characterised by the person avoiding certain foods or types of food, having restricted intake in terms of overall amount eaten or both. Anyone of any age can have ARFID.

Across different studies there is a lot of uncertainty about the prevalence of ARFID in the general population, with estimates varying between 0.3%-17.9%.

Facts about Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Typical age of onset is thought to be younger in those with ARFID relative to other eating disorders.

There has been relatively little research into ARFID treatment.

Consequences of ARFID can include weight loss, compromised growth, gastrointestinal problems, and significant malnutrition.

The barriers to treatment include: lack of awareness and education stigma, misconceptions around its severity and lack of standardised care pathways. It is not known how long it typically takes to access diagnosis and treatment.

ARFID has serious impacts on social relationships, and engagement in education and/or employment.

If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or

(Featured Image credit Beat Eating Disorders)

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