When I first launched this website over two years ago, I met an adult that had found recovery and healing from ARFID in his late teens/early 20s. He had used hypnotherapy and that is the approach that worked for him (read more at http://www.arfidresource.com/?page_id=84). After hearing his story and then meeting and working with Dr. Kim using "imagining" (watch the video) while pendulating back and forth between a food that was positive and a food that was negative, I started to see the connections. I also had used visualization as an athlete and was familiar with the positive aspects of it in sport performance, but had never really thought about it in any other aspect.
Through talking with various parents and practitioners, I started to get a sense of what was really working for people. It all seemed to point to relaxing the individual, and then once in the relaxed state, using some form of visualization to "practice" how you respond to the situation or fear, eventually training yourself to overcome the situation. In the case of ARFID, food cues are used in a progressive manner - just like many of us parents have seen used in exposure therapy (place in front of > touch > lick > chew and spit > swallow), except food is never used in the session. If you can't do something in imagination, then it will be awfully hard in real life.
It is essential that the individual have the strong desire to overcome the circumstances. I felt that my son had shown those signs, so I started bringing him to a hypnotherapist a couple of months ago. At first, the therapist worked with him to "let go" of the trauma that caused his ARFID. Whether it was at child birth, or after, he needed to understand that he has grown into a fun loving 10 year old, with no major medical issues, and he did not die all of the times he thought he would during the past 10 years. His 10 year old self talked to his baby self and said, "See how big we are? We are big and strong and we survived."
After a couple months of this, going once every two weeks, we talked to him about his eating and asked him the question, "What do YOU want to eat?" It is all in his control - it has to be. He wants to eat an orange or a strawberry. He has shown he has the desire. So, we talked about the orange, introduced the idea in hypnotherapy, and then physically put it by him at home. Then we played catch with it a couple weeks later. Next, if he wants to, we will cut it open and touch it or smell it. But only if he wants to. This is his ARFID, not mine.
He really likes the smell of the orange from the outside. This is an opening for him, so we can cut it open and just smell it. Then we will introduce bringing it to his mouth in hypnotherapy. Then eventually bring it to his mouth outside of therapy. It's all in stages that he wants and can handle. And he calls the shots.
Recovering from ARFID is like training for the Olympics. We can't go buy a patch and slap it on their arms to fix this. We can't give a pill, or hypnotize them into recovery. This is a journey. Recovering from ARFID is as much work as training for the Olympics. We have to find coaches to train with, training partners to share resources with, then practice, practice, practice! We must visualize our performance over and over. We must put in the hard work and the hundreds of hours of sweat. Then, in the end, we win the gold. Our gold, is a new food that can be eaten on a regular basis and pave the way for more.
Somedays, I wish there was a patch. It sure would be easier, but all is not lost. The time that I have spent with my son through this journey is priceless. We have a wonderful bond that we may not have made the time to create if he didn't have ARFID. Since the Olympics is just a couple of weeks away, now is as good a time as any to renew our ARFID spirit!
I am an ARFID Mom. I am the mother of a 12 year old boy with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). I have become the "expert" on my son's feeding issues. I am here to share what I've learned.