The Heath

Is It ARFID or Sensory Processing Disorder?

I've seen approximately 4000 people for SED/ARFID now and I've experienced ARFID in two forms: a phobic form and a sensory processing disorder (SPD) version

  1. Phobic form: here ARFID occurs as a result of a trauma around food in childhood resulting in a phobic and avoidant response to food.

    This is by far the most common version. So far about 95% of the people I have seen present with the phobic version, even sometimes when they think they have the SPD version.

    My success rate with the phobic version is extremely high, usually requiring just a single two hour session, and the success rate is at approx 95% for adults, and about 70% for teenagers and children.

  2. SPD form: here ARFID occurs from a sensory processing problem. This is far more rare than most people believe, just a few people out of every hundred. I have not had success with treating pure SPD in one session. However, it should also be pointed out that I haven't had the chance to see if I can change SPD over several sessions using hypnosis to change the focus of attention, stimulation or sensitivity.

To confuse matters, one's perception (which determines how you think, act, feel and behave towards what you perceive) is itself influenced by fear.

Fear will distort one's perceptions of textures, smells, tastes etc, so many people I have successly treated who made remarks about texture or smell at the start of the session assumed they had the SPD version. However, once the underlying fear was removed, their perception was 'uncontaminated' by fear and they could assess food more objectively and problems with texture and taste simply cleared up.

So sometimes SPD comes off looking like ARFID, when it is still ARFID.

Unfortunately, the converse is true too. Some people think they have a phobia when they have a SPD and are disappointed when there is no change after the treatment.

It's hard to know what is going on unless I do the session and start a process of elimination!. There is no guarantee I'm afraid, but if you do have the phobic form, which is more likely, then if anyone can resolve this, its probably me.

The presence of SPD is what I believe keeps me from having a 100% success rate with ARFID in general, but it is running a close second place at approx 95%.

With teenagers and young children success may be blocked due to a number of other interfering dynamics present – power play and politics, keeping preferential treatments and attention, defiance, not being ready etc, all of which sabotage the therapy and will need to be resolved prior to treatment for ARFID.

Felix Economakis

For more information please see the other articles on ARFID.

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