A debilitating eating disorder, ARFID is more than just being picky.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a recently defined eating disorder that involves a disturbance in eating, resulting in persistent failure to meet nutritional needs and extreme picky eating. In ARFID, food avoidance or a limited food repertoire can be due to:
- Low appetite and lack of interest in eating or food.
- Extreme food avoidance based on sensory characteristics of foods e.g. texture, appearance, colour, smell.
- Anxiety or concern about consequences of eating, such as fear of choking, nausea, vomiting, constipation, an allergic reaction etc. The disorder may develop in response to a significant negative event such as an episode of choking or food poisoning, followed by the avoidance of an increasing variety of foods.
The diagnosis of ARFID requires that difficulties with eating are associated with one or more of the following:
- Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain in children).
- Significant nutritional deficiency. The need to rely on a feeding tube or oral nutritional supplements to maintain sufficient nutrition intake.
- Interference with social functioning (such as inability to eat with others).
The impact on physical and psychological health and degree of malnutrition can be similar to that seen in people with anorexia nervosa. However, people with ARFID do not have excessive concerns about their body weight or shape and the disorder is distinct from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Also, while individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have rigid eating behaviours and sensory sensitivities, these do not necessarily lead to the level of impairment required for a diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
American Psychiatric Association