Common Symptoms of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a new diagnostic category in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Traditionally, eating disorders that did meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa were categorized as Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).

By categorizing conditions for a person suffering from ARFID, treatment professionals hope to gain a better outcome for those individuals who exhibit unique characteristics regarding their struggles with eating foods and receiving appropriate nutrition and energy needs.

What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)?


People with avoidant eating disorder refuse food to the point where they are underweight and malnourished.

According to the American Psychiatric Association” a large number of individuals, primarily but not exclusively children and adoles­cents, substantially restrict their food intake and experience significant associated physiological or psy­chosocial problems but do not meet criteria for any DSM-IV eating disorder.”

Typically, infants and children, who suffer from ARFID have developed a problem with eating or feeding that significantly causes weight loss or inability to grow. The problems are characterized by:

  • Lack of interest in food or eating, avoidance of foods based on sensory characteristics such as color or texture, or perceived adverse consequences of eating.
  • People who suffer from ARFID have significant nutritional and calorie deficiency.
  • These eating disturbances are not caused by lack of food or cultural practices such as religious fasting.
  • The diagnosis is independent of other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa where the person has significant concerns with body weight or shape.
  • ARFID does not result from any underlying medical condition. In cases where a co-existing mental health disorder exists, the severity of the ARFID conditions exceeds that of the other conditions.

Common Symptoms of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Children can be very picky about their foods and they may avoid foods of a certain type for a while, but, when there is a persistent struggle with eating resulting in health concerns, clinical treatment may be necessary. Common symptoms of ARFID include:

  • Significant weight loss, low weight, or inadequate growth.
  • Significant impairment in psychosocial functions such as problems at school or work, avoiding parties, work lunches, or other social activities where food is involved and not getting things done because of slow eating habits.
  • Eating a limited range of foods that share similar characteristics such as color, texture, temperature, or smell and aversion to new foods.
  • Psychological health concerns, such as concentration or other cognitive difficulties and conditions of anxiety, depression, or mood disorders, especially in older children.
  • Fear of choking or fear of consequences from eating.
  • Difficulty swallowing, gagging, and other disruptive behaviors regarding food avoidance.
  • Dependence to oral nutritional substances or enteral feeding.


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