Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Written by Aleem

September 3, 2023

Picky Eating Beyond Childhood

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a serious but less well-known eating condition that causes people to be very picky about what they eat, choose few foods, and dislike certain textures, tastes, or smells. ARFID is different from children who are picky eaters because it continues into adolescence and adulthood and can have major health effects. In this blog, we’ll talk about ARFID in simple, easy-to-understand terms. We’ll talk about its causes, symptoms, effects, and why it’s important to get assistance.

How to Understand ARFID?

ARFID is more than just being picky about what you eat; it’s a complex eating problem that goes beyond just liking certain foods. People with ARFID don’t like many foods and often skip whole food groups, which can make them not get enough nutrition. ARFID is different from other eating disorders because it is not caused by worries about body weight or shape. Instead, it is caused by a wide range of sensitivities and aversions to physical experiences.

The Root Cause of ARFID?

We don’t fully understand what causes ARFID, but a number of things may have led to it:

Sensory Sensitivities: Some people have more sensitive senses, which makes them dislike certain tastes, textures, or smells.

Fear of Choking or Throwing Up: Some people avoid certain foods because they are afraid of choking or throwing up.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: People with autism are more likely to have ARFID, which could mean there is a link between sensory sensitivity and the disease.

Stress or Trauma: Having bad feelings about food can be caused by worry or trauma.

What are the symptoms?

For early treatment, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of ARFID:

Limited Food Choice: People with ARFID usually only eat a small number of foods and stay away from whole food groups.

Sensory Aversions: They may not like certain tastes, textures, or smells very much.

Nutritional Shortages: ARFID can cause nutritional shortages, like not getting enough of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Some people may have problems with their stomach or intestines, like diarrhea or stomach pain.

Mealtime Anxiety: It’s normal for people to feel anxious and stressed when it’s time to eat because they’re worried about trying new foods.

What Does ARFID Do?

ARFID can have a number of effects on the physical and mental health of a person:

Nutritional Shortages: Not having enough food options can cause nutritional shortages, which can affect a person’s health and growth as a whole.

Weight Loss or Stagnation: ARFID can cause children and teens to lose weight or stop gaining weight.

Emotional Distress: Having ARFID can cause a lot of mental pain and worry.

Isolation: People with ARFID may feel alone or left out of social events where food is involved.

Getting Help and Care

It’s important to get help and treatment for ARFID to improve nutrition and general health:

Medical Evaluation: Start with a full medical evaluation to check for nutritional deficiencies and deal with any physical health problems.

Behavioral Therapy:  Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat ARFID. The goal of CBT is to help the person gradually eat more foods and deal with their anxiety.

Nutritional Counseling: A trained dietitian can help people learn how to eat in a healthy way and try new foods.

Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a way to help people become more comfortable with different foods by slowly exposing them to them in a controlled and supportive setting.

Supportive Environment: People with ARFID need to feel understood and supported by their family and friends.


ARFID is a rare and difficult eating problem that can happen to people of any age. To improve nutrition, emotional health, and the general quality of life, you need to get help and support. People with ARFID may face shame and misunderstanding, so it’s important to treat them with compassion and understanding.

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