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Avoidant | restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

27 February, 2021 Ananya Das

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder from which people of almost all age groups suffer but children are among the group who are impacted the most. This disorder is also known as extreme picky eating. This disorder is different from the other food disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

The individuals suffering from this disorder are found to possess fear from eating food. The fear stems from the knowledge they possess that they must eat but have no interest in eating due to various unnecessary fears which they think they might encounter while eating like fear of choking while swallowing, fear of trying a new food item, fear of eating food which is either too hot or too cold according to their consideration or most important the fear that they might fall ill due to eating some or other item.

Types of ARFID:

There are three types of ARFID from which people are found to be suffering from. These are as follows:

1. Lack of Interest: In this disorder the patient feels no real interest in eating food of any kind and also feels like he is full after eating in small amount.

2. Sensory avoidance: In this disorder the patient tries to avoid a certain type of food because of his sensory issues that he associates with the food like with the food taste, its smell, its texture or the temperature at which it is served to them.

3. Fear of aversive results: In this disorder the patient fears that he might fall ill, get choked, may suffer from nausea or may catch allergies if they eat a particular food or food item.

Symptoms of ARFID:

Following are the warning signs which if encountered may tell you that you are suffering from ARFID disorder or help you as a parent to identify if your child is suffering from it:

  • Sudden loss of weight
  • Digestive problems like constipation or diarrhea
  • Eating only specific texture of food
  • Feel sick around mealtimes
  • Dressing too much to avoid weight loss
  • Feel like vomiting or choking just after eating
  • Feel weak or suffer excess energy

Other symptoms include:

  • Stomach aches
  • Acid reflux issues or GERD
  • History of having fear of vomiting after meals

Causes and Risk Factors of ARFID:

Since this is a newly discovered disorder so not much information about its exact cause is available at present but physicists and dietitians have discovered some risk factors which may increase the chances of its development.

Some of the potential risk factors for ARFID may include the following factors:

  • Temperamental
  • Environmental
  • Genetic
  • Physiological

Other disorders from which children suffers and may lead to the development of ARFID disorder includes:

  • Autism
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Anxiety
  • Psychiatric disorders

Some of the children who are found to suffer from ARFID are found to have history of severe picky eating which they are unable to outgrow.


Since the main cause behind its development is yet not known so yet proper guidelines for the treatment of this disorder is yet not published. But still it’s believed that the patients of this disorder may receive special care or expertise for getting out of this disorder by consulting with a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

In case of severe complications in terms of health while looking in context of malnourishment and severe weight loss, your doctor may prescribe you with supplement of highly deficient nutrients that is vitamins and minerals to first fulfill the gap of nutrient imbalance in the body and then provide you a chart of food items and a list of routine diet plan that you need to follow with proper sincerity to get out of this disorder and lead a healthy life.

All the food supplements that may be prescribed to you for the treatment of your disorder can be easily bought online from online pharmacies.

In this disorder there are high chances of developing a poor health condition with suppressed growth and nourishment. And since the main causes of this disorder are yet not known so it’s always advised to take care if you or your child experience any of the mentioned symptoms. If so then be sure to consult your doctor and get medical support to learn eating and get well soon.