Category: <span>Children</span>

child eating an apple

ARFID: What Parents Should Know About this Eating Disorder

Many parents struggle to get their toddlers to eat the right kinds of food and ensure that they get the complete nourishment they need to grow strong and healthy. Pediatricians consider picky eating as a normal part of a child’s development, but they also acknowledge that it can lead to complications like vitamin deficiencies.

Children typically outgrow picky eating as they grow older, but if they don’t, they might be experiencing something Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

As a private group practice offering treatment programs for eating disorder patients in Westport, we can show you the difference between picky eating and ARFID (previously called Selective Eating Disorder or SED). Here’s what you, as parents, need to know about this disorder and how it can affect your child.

Picky Eating vs. ARFID: What’s the Difference?

The first thing you need to know is how to determine if your child is simply a picky eater or already afflicted with SED. This is necessary because if your child has the latter, you may need professional help and seek selective eating disorder treatment for your child.

Here are some points where picky eaters and children with SED differ:

  • Fussy eaters eventually grow out of this behavior while SED patients do not.
  • A key difference between the two is that picky eaters are still relatively healthy and can hit and maintain the ideal body weight of their age group despite eating only a few kinds of food. Children with ARFID, on the other hand, experience significant weight loss and are likely below their ideal weight range. They definitely need nutritional supplements and, in worst-case scenarios, they need feeding tubes to meet their daily caloric needs.
  • A child’s attitude towards food can also be a symptom. Picky eaters are selective with their food because they don’t like what certain kinds of food look, smell, or taste like. In contrast, kids diagnosed with ARFID have a very strong aversion to food (hence ARFID is also described by some as “food neophobia”) coupled with an almost exclusive preference for a very narrow selection of food. Some children cannot even stand to have food that they don’t like within their sight or in the same room as them. Additionally, picky children are interested in food. They often feel hungry and enjoy eating their preferences. Kids with ARFID, however, have very little interest in food and eating in general.
  • Children who develop ARFID may have a great fear of vomiting or choking, either because they experienced it previously or saw someone else do it. They become very anxious about vomiting that their immediate physical response is to restrict their eating. Typical picky eaters have no such fears about food or vomiting.

family having breakfast

Diagnosis and Treatment

The symptoms above for picky eating and ARFID may seem like polar opposites and easy to distinguish, but there are many cases when they also overlap. It’s challenging distinguishing between the two without professional help, which is why it’s important to get an official diagnosis from a qualified psychologist.

Treatment for ARFID is usually a combination of medications, nutrition therapy, family-aided therapy, behavioral intervention, and psychotherapy. Home treatment for this selective disorder is possible with guidance from a professional team.

The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health can give the guidance and treatment that families and children with ARFID need. We are a private group practice of psychotherapists and clinicians dedicated to providing individualized mental health services in Westport and other nearby cities in Connecticut.

Contact us today to request an appointment.

sad child

How Can You Help Prevent Childhood Substance Abuse?

Given the right conditions, substance abuse can afflict anyone. Although you might usually associate such a burden with teens and adults, substance abuse is a shadow that affects everyone, including children.

You need to learn about the unpleasant truth of childhood substance abuse to prevent or manage it. You also need to know methods outside of professional treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy, that you can use to help your children.

Unpleasant Numbers

According to studies on the substance-abusing population of the United States, children as young as 12 have participated in illegal drug use. Numbers indicate that 741,000, or 3 percent, of the total adolescent population in the country, an age group that includes children who aren’t even teenagers yet, have problems involving illicit drug use. Approximately 443,000 of the same age-group deal with alcohol use disorder.

Children and people who suffer from substance abuse issues are often prone to developing mental disorders as well. Substance abuse has also been linked to an increase in criminality, as users fall on the wrong side of the law because of their addictions.

To help decrease these unpleasant numbers, you need to understand why they happen and how you can help those undergoing them.

The Causes of Childhood Substance Abuse

Children and adolescents generally develop substance abuse for four reasons: to garner social acceptance, as a part of socializing, to cope with emotional or psychological burdens, and to deal with difficult life transitions.

Understanding these circumstances is vital in helping children.

To garner social acceptance

Also known as peer pressure, children who want to be accepted may feel like they need to indulge in the same activities of social groups. They may feel like they have to use drugs and drink alcohol if they want to be included.

How You Can Help:Take time to talk to your child about why they want to be accepted by a specific social group. Let them know that they shouldn’t participate in things that they’re not comfortable in doing, even if their friends are. You can also encourage them to hang out in places where they can have a private space but you can still monitor them, such as your house.

As part of socializing

Adolescents sometimes use illicit substances and alcohol to overcome their social anxieties and to feel confident. They may also want to go to parties where these activities are encouraged to mingle with their friends or to gain acceptance. Or they may indulge in them out of boredom or curiosity.

How You Can Help: Have a conversation with them about your stance on these activities. Find ways to steer your child’s friends to party in public spaces where drugs and alcohol will be difficult to bring or consume. Also, let them know that if they ever need to leave and get picked up from a party or gathering that they can call you to do so with no questions asked. Supervise any parties in your home and coordinate with other parents, so they can do the same.

Coping with Emotional and Psychological Pain

Mental health issues and difficult emotional processes can drive adolescents and children to try alcohol or drugs to nullify the negative feelings. Loneliness, depression, social anxiety, or self-esteem problems can all contribute to the development of substance abuse.

How You Can Help: Remind children that you are there to help them cope with these problems and you can guide them to safe coping alternatives. You should also practice healthy coping techniques yourself and become a role model. Finally, talk to them about seeking professional help and follow through on the offer.

Difficult Life Transitions

Events such as moving homes or schools, divorce, going through puberty, and death or illness of a loved can take their toll on an adolescent. During such periods of emotional upheaval, they may turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort.

How You Can Help: Maintain and improve your connection with them the transition. Open up about your own emotions and encourage them to do the same. Schedule regular fun activities between the two of you where you can bond and enjoy.

Genuine assistance stems from understanding what makes a problem happen in the first place. By communicating with your child and securing the services of professionals, you may prevent them from developing a substance abuse problem.

A Better Way to Get Better

The Center for Cognitive Behavioral Health in Westport uses novel concepts and nurturing environments to help our patients move past their issues and eventually conquer. Our treatments are developed for substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety issues, depression, and other problems.

Get in touch with us today and tell us how we can be of assistance.