Whether you are reading this because you are an adult who eats selectively or the parent of a child who does, things can seem desperate. Feeling scared to try new foods can lead to health issues and all kinds of anxieties, whether you know this experience as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) or Selective Eating Disorder (SED) I do not like the word disorder.
If you eat selectively there is nothing wrong with you, it is just that you have learned to fear trying new foods. You have subconsciously associated that fear feeling with unfamiliar foods. Fear is just a feeling, it is not real. You have put fear aside many many times in your life so you can do it here. If that fear has been removed then there is nothing stopping you trying new foods and you know what? You are not going to like all of them but that's fine, no one is going to make you eat the ones you do not like, but you are going to like some of them and suddenly your life gets more interesting, your health improves and at least one stress disappears from your life.
It does not matter how long you have eaten selectively, the fear can be put aside very quickly leaving you to start making up your own mind about each food – the taste, the texture – instead of fearing disgust before you've had a chance to experiment.
Life is about trial and error. You stop doing what you do not like and carry on doing what you do. It is a scientific approach so what if I could help you put that fear aside the way you have done in so many other situations in your life, sometimes without thinking about, so that you can eat scientifically. This is all that is required in ARFID treatment / SED treatment.
During effective treatment for adults living with ARFID we will not focus on the food – we will focus on the fear. We will focus on the part of your mind that decided food is frightening and then got left behind as every other part of your mind grew up. We will focus on re-establishing a good relationship between that part of your mind and your more rational mind so you can work together instead of against each other.
Treatment of children and adolescents with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is not about addressing fussy eating but about nipping this fear in the bud before it becomes a lifetime of stress, anxiety and limitations.
ARFID treatment centres can be formal but I see clients in a home office in Worthing, West Sussex. We will integrate the parts of your mind that are working against each other and I will encourage you to bring some foods to try at the end of the session if you feel like it which you probably will. Once the fear is successfully dealt with, you will continue the rest of your ARFID treatment at home which just involves trying different foods at your own pace and bringing more variety to your meal times and flexibility to your social and eating habits. I am of course available for support along the way if you require.
I have trained with Felix Economakis who is a psychologist and hypnotist working in London, the country's leading therapist for ARFID / SED and known from the BBC program Freaky Eaters. He has developed a working process that he calls his 4Rs and I am one of the few other therapists in the world now using the same process.
This is not just hypnosis for treating selective eating disorders. We will use a mixture of conversation, imagination and hypnosis which will vary from person to person as although this is a specific way of working – it is very bespoke to each individual and extremely successful for adults, adolescents and children.