What is ARFID?

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.

Symptoms & Signs of ARFID

Symptoms of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) vary widely, and may evolve with the developmental context of the individual (especially in children and adolescents). We explore the different types of ARFID to help you identify potential symptoms and warning signs.

Types of ARFID


Patients who only accept a limited diet in relation to sensory features (sensory sensitivity); sensory aversion; sensory over-stimulation.


Individuals whose food refusal is related to aversive or fear-based experiences (phobic avoidance) including choking, nausea, vomiting, pain and/or swallowing.


Individuals who do not eat enough and show little interest in feeding or eating (low appetite); extreme pickiness; distractible and forgetful.

What causes ARFID?

Like other eating disturbances, there is no singular cause of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). However, the evolving scientific literature suggests that this pattern of disordered eating develops from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors.

ARFID causes

Genetic factors

Eating disorders are familial illnesses, and temperamental traits predisposing individuals toward developing an illness are passed from generation to generation.

Psychological factors

Anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms tend to accompany eating disturbances, as do co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders.

Sociocultural factors

Cultural pressures to eat clean/pure/healthy as well as increased interests in food processing, sourcing, packing and the environmental impact can influence food beliefs and intake.

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How is ARFID treated?

At Eating Recovery Center, treatment for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) begins with a comprehensive assessment to determine the type of eating disorder and other core issues. Medical stabilization, psychiatric stabilization, nutritional rehabilitation and weight restoration (when appropriate) are all provided.

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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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Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center are accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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