Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Counseling questions

Counseling questions.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder vs. Anorexia and Bulimia.

How is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFIDO) different from all those eating disorders people have come to know? And did we really need another eating disorder diagnosis?

Proposed for the new DSM-5 and looking like a for-sure new recognized eating disorder is ARFIDO.  ARFIDO has some differences from past eating disorders. Given the many possible bad relationships with food people could become involved with, my take is yes this one is different from either Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia and it has been needed for some time.

The way we have been looking at eating disorders has had some flaws for a while now. McFarland et al in 2008 wrote an interesting article on eating disorder relapse. The topic of relapse and relapse prevention has been an important part of substance abuse treatment for a long time. Recently we have been looking at the issue of relapse related to mental health issues.

In his article, McFarland reported that they ended up including all the people with an eating disorder in the relapse study because people with an eating disorder move between disorders often enough to prevent saying someone has one and only one eating disorder.

We also are told in this article that the majority of people in treatment for an eating disorder, up to 60% of those treated in outpatient, did not meet the criteria for one of the official diagnosis and ended up in the leftover category Eating Disorder Not otherwise specified (NOS).

Creating a new disorder (ARFIDO) is supposed to reduce the number of people who were ending up in that vague NOS land.

People with ARFIDO are different from those with anorexia nervosa or bulimia in several important ways. (I have taken liberties with the new DSM-V criteria here for sake of explanation.)

1. They do not have the characteristic distorted body image.

Ask a person with anorexia what they think about their current weight and they will tell you they are fat. Show them their reflection in the mirror, bones sticking out and all and they will still say they look fat. They see themselves at fat and no facts, not even the scale and the standard weight charts, will change that perception.

People with ARFIDO do not necessarily think they are fat.

They know they are thin, abnormally thin, but they like it that way. They become proud of their ability to stay thinner than most. They will keep up the dieting even when they know they are developing a health problem or nutritional deficiency because they like being one of the thin ones.

2. They don’t especially like food, food is the enemy.

People with ARFIDO will avoid many or all foods. They may need to resort to nutritional supplements to keep their weight above the critical go-to-hospital point.

3. They avoid putting on weight as they grow or in adulthood lose excessive amounts of weight.

They will continue avoiding food even when they know they are making themselves sick by their intentional starvation.  Like Pieter Pan, they do not want to grow up or get larger.

4. This is not the result of starvation or lack of resources. People with ARFIDO do this on purpose. The will harm their health to look thin while living in a home with a full refrigerator.

5. Because they are so good at avoiding eating, people with ARFIDO do not have the need for the extreme measures we see in Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia.

That is my understanding of this new diagnostic category at the current point in time. The new DSM will be out early next year and we can all get the full details then.

The update I read at the APA site was May 14-2012. They also note that when this is all done they expect there to be three subtypes of ARFIDO, A People who do not eat and are not interested in eating B People who will only eat food with certain sensory characteristics,  C People who won’t eat because of an aversive experience.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

So do you think that this creation of ARFIDO will improve recognition of poorly recognized eating disorders? Do you believe you or someone you know has had an episode of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder? If you recovering from or have you had a relapse to Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder would you care to leave a comment?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhealthy food

Unhealthy relationship with food.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Anorexia is a killer.

We know Anorexia Nervosa, Anorexia for short, is out there. This eating disorder can be a fatal disease. Most of us can name a famous celebrity or two who suffered and died as a result of Anorexia. But when someone we know, someone in our family develops Anorexia we are likely to look the other way until it is too late.

Anorexia Nervosa, along with Bulimia and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, mostly binge eating without an effort to lose the weight, these are the three currently recognized eating disorders. There are many misconceptions about Anorexia.

Anorexia is not dieting gone too far. Anorexia’s most recognizable feature is a refusal to maintain normal body weight. It is a distortion in the way the person sees themselves. The person with Anorexia sits in front of me. It is hard for me to look at them. The bones are visible and they look like a skeleton walking. They hid this from people for a long time with baggy clothes, strange secretive eating habits or other devices.

Anorexia is not a loss of appetite. Even in the presence of extreme hunger, someone with Anorexia will refuse to eat.

I ask the person with Anorexia what she thinks of her weight. She says she needs to lose some weight, she is getting fat. I ask how much weight, she tells me five maybe ten pounds.  If I were to show her the mirror, let her see the bones sticking out, would that change her mind? Not likely. People with Anorexia even when confronted with a look at the bones that stick out will still insist they are too fat; they need to lose more weight. The problem is not in the diet but in the mind. The image in the mirror looks fat to them.

It is not about a lack of interest in food. Many with Anorexia watch cooking shows, own recipe books, and even hoard food. In the early stages, they may develop odd picky eating preferences and habits. Some appear to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when it involves food, weight, and dieting. They may refuse to eat in public and insist on taking their food to their rooms. They may have a strong perfectionist inclination.

They know the ingredients in the foods and can tell you more about the nutritional values than most dietitians, only they refuse to eat until they damage some organs. Sometimes the dieting and the other behaviors continue until death.

You don’t see a lot of Anorexia in poor families. It is more likely among the middle class and rich. All the resources in the richest country on earth and still they starve – on purpose.

The thing that matters most to the anorexic is not the food – it is the control. They may have no control in any other area of their life but you can’t make them eat. Force feed them and they will vomit. The ways a person with Anorexia may reduce their weight are varied and imaginative. The may restrict, purge, use laxatives or exercise to the extreme.

Anorexia doesn’t just cost weight. It affects a person’s overall psychical health, their psychology and their social life.

Anorexia is most often not a stand-alone disorder. It like the other eating disorders, Bulimia and Binge Eating, frequently co-occur with anxiety and depression.

Besides the low weight, how can you tell if it is Anorexia and not just a dedicated dieter?

Someone with Anorexia will weigh less than 85% of what is considered normal for their height and age. They become extremely fearful of gaining any weight even when they know that they are thinner than their peers.

In women, they will have missed three or more menstrual cycles.

Someone with Anorexia sees their extremely low weight as a great achievement rather than a life-threatening illness.

Anorexia is not a phase teenagers go through even though many first develop the symptoms in their teen years. It is a life-threatening illness. Without treatment, it is highly unlikely to go away and is very likely to get worse until eventually it impairs health and may result in death.

Dieting is not the only way someone with Anorexia might control their weight. Some people binge eat and then purge, they may develop a ritual around their efforts to vomit and undo the binge eating. Those with Anorexia who binge and purge are more likely to develop other impulse control problems; they may abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in excessive, risky sex. Those who binge and purge are more likely to attempt suicide.

Anorexia Nervosa affects about one in two hundred people. Lots more cases come close but don’t get diagnosed because they don’t get below the 85 % of normal weight measure. Most clients with Anorexia are female and this disorder most often starts in the early to middle teenage years, but not always.

Most any clinician can recognize and diagnose Anorexia but very few are willing to treat this condition. Even psychiatric hospitals are likely to refuse clients with Anorexia because of the high risk of permanent medical problems or death. There are effective techniques for treating Anorexia but they are specialized and often treatment occurs at treatment facilities that specialize in eating disorders.

Anorexia is a dangerous sometimes fatal condition. If you or someone you know has signs of this disorder please seek professional help before it is too late.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

DSM-5 Diagnoses begin to disappear

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Medical record

Diagnosis.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

UPDATE – changes in the DSM.

You can erase most of this post from your memory. During the process of updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) from the DSM-IV to the DSM-5 a lot of things were proposed. Some of those suggested changes were instituted and others were left out. This post includes mostly ideas that did not make it to the final DSM-5. Because these ideas were included in a lot of research articles and other blog posts, I have left the post up but need to tell you that some this information is now out of date.

Mental illnesses appear and disappear like magic – More DSM-5.

The effort to improve and refine the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders continues. This round of revisions has created a lot of concern about the way in which things we thought we knew about the nature and treatment of mental illness can change dramatically in a short time span.

There has been a lot of opposition to some of the proposed changes from both inside the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and those outside the association who have to work with the manual. The effects for consumers and clients may not be obvious for some time.

Recently the APA posted a notice on their website about changes they are making to the proposals for the new edition of the DSM. Not surprisingly, those revisions in proposals have coincided with the APA’s convention. The pressure to get this worked out is on now as the new edition is due out next year at the May 18-22, 2013 APA convention. That means the decisions need to be made and the book sent to the publishers by the end of 2012. The APA is accepting comments on their website from May 2nd to June 15th, 2012.

Most of these ideas are tested in carefully controlled trials with strict adherence to criteria. Unfortunately in daily practice clients don’t come in with only one problem and clinicians don’t have the time or resources to do extensive testing and diagnosing. The question remains, will this new understanding of mental disorders help or hinder the efforts to get clients the best possible care and still stay inside agencies budgets?

Here are some of the most recent changes

1. Mixed Anxiety and Depression

This is getting moved to the back of the book under diagnosis for further study. We know that clients often have both of these together but then they also may have diabetes and sore throats but so far we are not creating lots of combo diagnosis. Bottom line if you have two mental illnesses you get two diagnoses, not one “combo,” for now.

2. Attenuated Psychosis

This moves to the back of the book also. We have plenty of psychosis class diagnosis, not sure one more will make any difference.

3. Depression gets a footnote about being careful not to make normal things into mental illnesses.

But that always has needed some judgment. If it is causing you too many problems it gets diagnosed if it is within normal it does not. So we still try to keep categories of illnesses while we also allow for variations in degree.

4. The Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Diagnosis (often called cutting)

So far has not worked the way they thought it would. Some have proposed adding Suicidal Behavior Disorder also. Currently, neither of these is considered a mental illness. They are symptoms of something but we are not all agreed on what they are symptoms of. These two are likely to end up in the back of the book along with that complex grief thing.

So the announced changes in the draft move us back closer to where we were before – except that to this point the APA is staying with their proposed changes in Autism and Substance Use Disorders. Only time will tell.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Is Bereavement a mental illness?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Bereavement

Bereavement, grief and loss.
Picture courtesy of pixabay.

Should bereavement, grief, the loss of a loved one be a mental illness?

How we see the death of a loved one is a real problem for our society.  Loss of a loved one is for many people the most traumatic event in their life. Grief and loss is an important topic. There are a gazillion books on the subject and plenty of therapists who say they specialize in “grief work.” We know that the closer the person is to you the worse the loss.

But is bereavement, grief, the loss of a person, loved one or relationship a mental illness? Should it be?

Death and dying are something we don’t like to look at if we can avoid it. Most people die in hospitals behind closed doors. We consider death like birth a part of a human condition. It doesn’t seem right to make every emotion, happy or sad, suspect as being unacceptable. Should mental health help people avoid feelings or face them?

Professionals are just as confused about this as anyone else.  Up till now we specifically excluded grief as a diagnosable mental illness. This is a controversial issue among psychiatrists and therapists.

When someone dies do you get depressed? Should you? Bereavement is specifically excluded from the criteria of Major Depressive Disorder. So if you get depressed because your favorite T. V. show was canceled you can be treated for Major Depression but is a family member dies it is not by definition a mental illness.

In the revision of the DSM, as we move to the DSM-5 in the middle of 2013, the professional community is trying to find a solution to the whole grief and bereavement problem. So far there is not much agreement.

Sometimes professionals get around this in various ways. They wait a while and then say this is going on too long and then give the diagnosis of Major Depression anyway. There are some professionals that say that we should just delete the exclusion. Depression is depression they say. So let everybody be depressed if they want to.

The contrary to that is that including people who are depressed because of bereavement may be enlarging the category, increasing the number of people who get treated for depression and making a normal human reaction to loss into a mental illness.

Some people want to exclude bereavement for the first year. If you are sad more than a year after the death of a loved one maybe we would want to offer you counseling. Depending on how sad you were, is it really depression?

Currently, Grief is included as a V code. V codes are those things listed in the back of the book like parents and children who can’t get along that are sometimes treated but we don’t specifically count these as a mental illness. (In the DSM-5 the V codes became Z codes.)

I wrote in a previous post about the movement, coming from outside the APA, to add a new disorder called “Complex grief” as if this is somehow different from regular grief.

So how do you deal with grief? Is it normal or a mental illness?

See also: Bereavement, grief, and loss

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.