April 14, 2020
The undersigned organizations join together to respond to a harmful idea being spread in the media about the dangerous mental illness, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).
In two opinion pieces sold to newspapers by the Associated Press, an unqualified author is promoting the idea that ARFID is not a treatable psychiatric disorder and that it is “just plain rude.” As the organizations below know well, ARFID is indeed a real disorder.
ARFID is not about discipline or parenting–or even eating, for that matter. It is a dangerous and disabling brain disorder. Practicing psychologists and medical personnel who specialize in eating disorders know this. They also know ARFID is treatable, but only when the family understands the nature of the disorder and is supported in getting that treatment.
The legacy of blaming parents, and those with eating disorders, is harmful and antiquated.
The newspapers publishing these attacks on eating disorder clinicians, parents, and those who are living with ARFID may see these columns as entertainment and opinion. They may not understand the medical harm of recommending families not pursue treatment. One editor told F.E.A.S.T:
“… it’s clear that you and others have had personal struggles with food issues and have a different perspective than (the author) expressed in his column.”
The author of the piece, John Rosemond, has called the response to his column “some of the most reactionary I’ve received in 44 years of writing this column”
Rosemond, however, does not treat patients and is not trained in evidence-based eating disorder diagnosis or treatment. As such, his “opinion piece” falls outside his professional and ethical scope of practice, as it essentially discourages the proper diagnosis and treatment of ARFID.
Just as not all sad people have depression, and not all of those with a suspicious mole have melanoma, not all children who are “picky eaters” are suffering from ARFID. Knowing the difference is the job of professionals who do recognize and believe in mental illness, and the author of these pieces unabashedly does not believe in evidence-based treatment or psychology.
ARFID can disable lives and harm families, but recognition and treatment can be lifesaving. That is why discouraging families from recognizing the problem is harmful. Framing ARFID, a brain disorder, as a discipline or parenting issue is not just a matter of expressing one’s opinion; it is an act of ignorance, and it is going to cause real harm to real people. Families who are pursuing medical care for their loved ones and doing very difficult work to help them recover need the support of their friends and communities–not cruel and uninformed criticism.
A petition to the Associated Press is signed by individuals and organizations around the world who are familiar with the science and the lifesaving effects of treatment. See petition here.
We are asking the Associated Press to review this piece and retract it. To fight some of the damage done by the piece, we are asking for the publication of evidence-based health information about ARFID and other eating disorders.
Recognizing ARFID is lifesaving. Ridiculing those with brain disorders and their families and treatment teams is quite the opposite.
Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, MS
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.)
Lynn Slawsky, MPA, PMP
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
Chase Bannister, MDIV, MSW, LCSW, CEDS
President, Board of Directors
Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC)
Jillian G. (Croll) Lampert, PhD, RD, LD, MPH, FAED
Residential Eating Disorder Consortium (REDC)
Academy for Eating Disorders
Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness
Chief Executive Officer
National Eating Disorders Association
National Eating Disorder Information Centre