Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) Overview

What is ARFID?

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating or feeding disturbance that is characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs. This can lead to one or more of the following issues:

  • Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in a child)

  • Significant nutritional deficiency

  • Dependence on oral nutritional supplements or enteral feeding (the delivery of a nutritionally complete feed, containing protein, carbohydrate, fat, water, minerals and vitamins, directly into the stomach, duodenum or jejunum)

  • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning

ARFID is often associated with a psychiatric co-morbidity, especially anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. The true prevalence of ARFID is unknown, due in large part to a lack of understanding of the diagnosis. We do know that ARFID affects both genders and is more common in children and young adolescents; however, it can occur in late adolescence and adulthood as well. 

It’s also important to understand what ARFID is not. ARFID is NOT:

  • Associated with body image issues or any abnormalities related to how one perceives their body weight or shape

  • The result of a lack of available food

  • A culturally sanctioned practice

  • Explained by another medical or mental disorder (“If we treat that issue, then this eating problem will go away”).

The health risks and developmental consequences for children and adolescents with ARFID can be serious and long lasting. As a further complication, ARFID is difficult to accurately diagnose. Assessment by a clinical professional trained in the disorder is essential.

ARFID vs. anorexia

ARFID is often confused with anorexia nervosa because weight loss and nutritional deficiency are common shared symptoms between the two disorders. However, the primary difference between ARFID and anorexia is that ARFID lacks the drive for thinness that is so common for individuals with anorexia. 

Seek highly specialized treatment for ARFID

Eating Recovery Center offers specialized treatment for children, adolescents and adults struggling with ARFID. Please call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule an assessment by one of our Master’s-level cliniciansEating Recovery Center is the nation's only health care system dedicated to the treatment of ARFID at all levels of care including inpatient treatment, residential treatment, partial hospitalization treatment and intensive outpatient treatment.

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