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UK eating disorder charity says calls from people with Arfid have risen sevenfold

The number of people in the UK who have avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (Arfid), in which those afflicted avoid many foods, has risen sevenfold in five years, figures show.

The eating disorders charity Beat received 295 calls about Arfid in 2018 – comprising 2% of its 20,535 inquiries that year. However, it received 2,054 calls last year, which accounted for one in 10 of its 20,535 requests for help. Many were from children and young people or their parents.

Andrew Radford, Beat’s chief executive, 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.”

Patchy provision of NHS help meant many people were experiencing long delays before accessing support, he added.

Eight in 10 eating disorder service providers did not state on their website whether or not they offered Arfid care, research by Beat found.

“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,” Radford said.

Arfid is much less well-known than anorexia or bulimia. It is “an eating disorder that rarely gets the attention it deserves”. The sharp increase in cases should prompt NHS chiefs to end the postcode lottery in care for Arfid and ensure that every region of England had a team of staff fully trained to treat it, he added.

“Unlike other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, Arfid isn’t driven by feelings around [someone’s] weight or shape,” Radford said. “Instead, it might be due to having sensory issues around the texture or taste of certain foods, fear about eating due to distressing experiences with food, for example choking, or lack of interest in eating.”

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Source: The Guardian, 26 February 2024


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