Are You Just a Picky Eater or Is It Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Most everyone knows someone who’s picky about what they eat. For some people, foods with a certain texture or taste may seem unappealing. For others, certain types of food may cause digestive problems.

While most of these cases don’t fall within the eating disorder category, extreme picky eating can cause serious health problems. Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is an extreme form of picky eating.

As one of the newly identified adult eating disorders, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder or ARFID appears in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental of Mental Disorders, or DSM 5. In effect, people struggling with ARFID experience ongoing struggles with food and eating that don’t fit within any other eating disorder diagnosis.

Knowing what types of signs to watch for can help you determine whether avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is affecting your health in harmful ways.

For information on eating disorder treatment options, call our toll-free helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) .

Eating Disorders

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

People with ARFID strongly believe that certain foods are harmful, and have a limited diet because of it.

Most forms of eating disorder stem from deep-rooted issues regarding body image and self esteem. A person’s overall disdain for his or her body can create an obsessive desire to lose weight. Near starvation, abusing laxatives and diuretics and purging behaviors all develop out of these conditions.

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, some of the most common forms of eating disorder include:

In effect, eating disorders breed irregular eating habits that compromise a person’s health and overall well-being.

How Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Differs From Other Types of Eating Disorders

Formerly considered a childhood disorder, the DSM 5 has expanded the criteria for avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) to include adolescents and adults. Not surprisingly, this condition has the same harmful effects on children and adults when left untreated.

While food restriction plays a central role in anorexia-type eating disorders, the underlying reasons for avoidant restrictive food intake disorder differ from those that drive anorexia. Rather than struggling with issues surrounding body image, people living with ARFID harbor rigid beliefs regarding the harmful effects of certain foods.

These beliefs dictate the types of food eaten as well as the amount of food eaten from day-to-day. The overall effect of these behaviors can severely limit a person’s daily caloric intake.

Signs of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease & Treatment, signs of developing ARFID include the following:

  • Avoiding certain types of food based on color, texture or shape
  • Concerns regarding the harmful effects of eating certain types of food
  • Malnutrition
  • Considerable weight loss
  • Being (and remaining) underweight
  • Loss energy, fatigue
  • Difficulty fulfilling daily responsibilities

Warning Signs

If you suspect you or someone you know is showing signs of avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • An overall lack of interest in food or eating in general
  • Unable or reluctant to eat in front of other people
  • Limited range of desired foods that grows increasingly smaller over time
  • Fears of chocking or vomiting when eating
  • Bodily complaints or symptoms that have no real cause

If you need help finding a program that treats eating disorder problems, please don’t hesitate to call our helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) .


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