What Causes ARFID?

When it comes to understanding the cause of ARFID, also known as avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, it is important to note that there is not one specific cause for this eating disorder condition. However, research on ARFID has shown that this condition can be contributed to three main factors: genetic, sociocultural and psychological. Below we will outline what each of these factors mean to further understand what may be causing ARFID symptoms in you or your loved one.

Genetic Factors

One major influence on the cause of eating disorders is found is genetic factors. Eating disorders are familial illnesses, and temperamental traits predisposing individuals toward developing an illness are passed from generation to generation.

Molecular Hereditary

Like many mental health conditions, hereditary can be a cause for some eating disorder behaviors. Every human is born with a genetic code, which may exhibit patterns in certain health conditions [1], such as ARFID.
[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6378634

Environmental Influence

Another genetic factor that might cause an individual to experience symptoms of ARFID is an environmental influence from family members. This can come from meal preparation, observing family members’ behaviors with food and exposure to diets and/or restrictive eating in the home [2].
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534269/

Sociocultural Factors

Another cause of ARFID and other eating disorders can be 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.

Healthy Appearance Expectations

In many cultures and in society today, there is oftentimes a misconnection that looking thin is the equivalent of being healthy [3]. This is a common cause of anorexia nervosa, which can co-occur with ARFID.
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3172455/pdf/IJPsy-29-107.pdf

Food Beliefs

Another sociocultural factor that can be seen in those struggling with ARFID symptoms is food beliefs. This can include moral beliefs about eating meat and dairy, or how these food items are prepared.

Sociocultural Factors

Another cause of ARFID and other eating disorders can be 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.

Healthy Appearance Expectations

In many cultures and in society today, there is oftentimes a misconnection that looking thin is the equivalent of being healthy [3]. This is a common cause of anorexia nervosa, which can co-occur with ARFID.
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3172455/pdf/IJPsy-29-107.pdf

Food Beliefs

Another sociocultural factor that can be seen in those struggling with ARFID symptoms is food beliefs. This can include moral beliefs about eating meat and dairy, or how these food items are prepared.

Psychological Factors

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

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

For many patients, symptoms of the ARFID eating disorder can co-occur with OCD, also known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In some more extreme cases, obsessions with food intake or preparation can lead to ritualistic compulsions [4].
[4] https://iocdf.org/expert-opinions/expert-opinion-eating-disorders-and-ocd/

Anxiety

Anxiety can be another cause of ARFID, specifically in patients who experience anxiety or fear around eating. They may avoid eating out of fear that they will choke, vomit or even die if they eat certain foods [5].
[5] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/more-picky-eating%E2%80%947-things-know-about-arfid

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ARFID Requires Specialized Treatment

ARFID is a complex eating disorder and requires highly-specialized medical, psychological and dietary care. Please call us at 877-825-8584 to learn more about the treatment options we offer at Eating Recovery Center.

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