What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)?

ARFID isn’t fussy or picky eating.

ARFID is a medically recognised eating disorder, once known as Selective Eating Disorder (SED). Sadly, for many sufferers the disorder is commonly mistaken as fussy eating, picky eating or attention seeking behaviour.

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ARFID is often mistaken as picky eating

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ARFID affects both children and adults

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ARFID is a phobia which can manifest itself as a sensory issue or a lack of interest in food.

Are mealtimes a chore?

Food is normally one of life’s pleasures unless you have ARFID.

Mealtimes can be a stressful and anxiety provoking event for the person living with ARFID and the friends and family worry how the disorder is affecting their health.

It’s not only children that live with ARFID.

Although ARFID usually begins in childhood, those that do not seek treatment often continue to suffer into adulthood. This means there are both adults and children living with ARFID, with many believing their struggles are a result of being a picky eater rather than a treatable condition.

An ARFID sufferer is usually limited to less than 20 foods.

Those who suffer from ARFID will have a very limited diet, and may refuse to try new foods. This is not because they are concerned about their weight, but because of their phobia or aversion to food. 

Despite their limited diet, an ARFID sufferer will not necessarily be underweight, in fact, it is possible to be a healthy weight or overweight whilst still having this eating disorder.

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A person may only eat safe foods with a particular taste, colour of texture

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They may not be able to comfortably touch or be around certain foods

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There are often aversions to entire food groups, such as fruits or vegetables

Most medical professionals are still not aware of ARFID.

Many medical professionals are still not aware of this common eating disorder, ARFID was only added to the Diagnostic Manual Version 5 in 2013 and recently included in the International Classification of Diseases (11th ed.; ICD-11; World Health Organisation, 2019). The disorder is often used to describe patients who struggle with eating a balanced diet, without the weight and body image concerns often associated with Bulimia and Anorexia. However, this lack of understanding can result in underweight sufferers being mis-diagnosed with Anorexia.

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Those with ARFID are not concerned with weight or body image

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Lack of awareness leads to misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment or no treatment

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Lack of nutrition can seriously impact a person’s future health

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Common signs & symptoms of ARFID.

If you suspect that either yourself or someone you know is suffering with ARFID, these are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for.

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Feeling fear and revulsion at the prospect of eating foods considered ‘unsafe’

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A diet which consists of a very narrow range of foods, with less than 20 food types is common

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A lack of hunger or a poor appetite

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Avoidance of situations which require eating in public

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Strict rules relating to the colour, texture or the way food is cooked.

ARFID is a phobia with life altering consequences

ARFID is often described as a food phobia, however unlike other phobias it can have life altering consequences. Not only will it cause significant disruptions to an individual’s way of life, but it can also have significant physical and mental health consequences.

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It can impact your physical and mental health

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It can hinder your social life

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It can damage your relationships

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It can hinder career progression

Is ARFID treatable?

Yes, it is possible for children and adults alike to overcome ARFID with effective psychological and motivational treatments available.