Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a phobia related to trying new foods. A person with ARFID may sincerely desire to eat new foods, might even like the look and smell of new foods, but be unable to bring themselves to taste them. The most common reasons is that they start to gag or retch if they do.
In the past ARFID was referred to as ‘fussy eating’ or ‘picky eating’. This however is a widespread misconception. My young children are fussy eaters (they will not eat any food that does not look in pristine condition). That is normal for young children. They do not however have a phobia, so to simply label people with ARFID as ‘fussy eaters’ is doing them a grave injustice. ARFID is as real and as valid as spider-phobia, snake phobia or flying phobia. It is the same phobic mechanism at work. It just so happens to have been historically associated with food rather than the more familiar targets of phobias. As a general rule of thumb: the difference between picky eaters and people with ARFID is that picky eaters they CAN eat foods but choose not to and in ARFID people want to eat foods but CANNOT.
Back in 2010 I was invited to be the psychologist on BBC3s Freaky Eaters (series 3), working with 8 people with extreme ARFID. I never had any specialist formal training in selective eating disorders. In fact I’d never even heard of ARFID. But I studied the subject and I cracked it. Following on from that programme, I was a member of the ‘fussy-eaters’ forum and as a result of the attention my work got on these two mediums, I have since seen over 1,400 people to date (Spring 2016) for ARFID, probably inadvertently making me the most experienced therapist for ARFID in the UK, if not in the world.
There is a forum on Facebook open to the general public called ‘Selective Eating Disorder’ which I joined in April 2013. In this forum you will find testimonials from parents who have tried hypnotherapy with other therapist without success. One lady even had 8 sessions with a doctor with over 25 years of clinical experience in hypnosis (twice mine) and yet her son had still not tried even one new food. I saw her son for just over an hour on Skype and afterwards he calmly started eating foods which he had never tried before. I’ve openly asked the hundreds of forum members to list any hypnotherapist or medical clinic they have come across with good success rates, and so far no one has matched my one session results. My point is that I am not an expert on eating disorders and yet I have more success and understanding about the true underlying subconscious mechanics than a typical specialist eating disorders clinic, with doctors formally trained in the field. What I do know, and know very well, is the relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind and how to get these two to work together for any challenge they face (see my book ‘Take Charge of Your Life with NLP’). This is what allows me to crack similar challenges quicker and far more effectively than most other methods I am aware of.
My ARFID protocol involves a single two-hour session where I combine several therapies including my particular brand of clinical hypnotherapy. The main aim is to release the fear that prevents individuals from eating the foods they want. Occasionally, there is more than just fear in the way as a block. There might be issues to do with family dynamics and relationships, in younger clients there may be the presence of secondary gains (such as subconscious attention-seeking or preferential treatment from parents). A few times I have had ARFID combined with OCD, all of which mean more work is needed to address the extra threads. To date my success rate for adults and older teenagers is approaching 100% (only one or two people out of every couple of hundred clients do not try food after the session), and approx 75% with children after one session.
Please note that the 2 hour protocol actually includes just over an hour and 20 minutes of therapy and about 20-30mins for preparing and presenting foods so that clients can taste them in their own time without pressure. I believe in testing my work and always ask client to bring at least 5-6 foods of increasing challenge which they would like to try but currently cannot bring themselves to eat. Sometimes clients love most of the food they bring, but more importantly most clients will still dislike one or two foods they have brought to eat – but they do not gag or are not afraid of eating them, and it does not prevent them from trying other foods. An extra 20 minutes is factored in just in case clients get lost finding me or held up in traffic (they often travel from far away and I would hate to run out of time if they were delayed and not complete the therapy after the effort made to see me). And sometimes some extra time may be needed to go over anything.
For more information on how I can help with ARFID contact me today on 0207 794 8730.