Little is known about the optimal treatment of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). The purpose of this study was to evaluate feasibility, acceptability, and proof‐of‐concept for cognitive‐behavioral therapy for ARFID (CBT‐AR) in children and adolescents.
Males and females (ages 10–17 years) were offered 20–30 sessions of CBT‐AR delivered in a family‐based or individual format.
Of 25 eligible individuals, 20 initiated treatment, including 17 completers and 3 dropouts. Using intent‐to‐treat analyses, clinicians rated 17 patients (85%) as “much improved” or “very much improved.” ARFID severity scores (on the Pica, ARFID, and Rumination Disorder Interview) significantly decreased per both patient and parent report. Patients incorporated a mean of 16.7 (SD = 12.1) new foods from pre‐ to post‐treatment. The underweight subgroup showed a significant weight gain of 11.5 (SD = 6.0) pounds, moving from the 10th to the 20th percentile for body mass index. At post‐treatment, 70% of patients no longer met criteria for ARFID.
This is the first study of an outpatient manualized psychosocial treatment for ARFID in older adolescents. Findings provide evidence of feasibility, acceptability, and proof‐of‐concept for CBT‐AR. Randomized controlled trials are needed.