Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is more commonly referred to as ARDID and was previously known as selective eating disorder.  It’s an eating disorder where a person will avoid a certain food, type of food, or restrict the amount of food they eat, or both.  It’s a fairly new condition that was diagnosed in 2013.  Children are often fussy eaters and go through phases of not eating certain foods, but generally they will eat enough for it not to negatively affect their physical and mental health. 

With ARFID people often struggle to consume sufficient nutrients and vitamins as they consume to few calories.  Unlike anorexia they’re not reluctant to eat because they are concerned about their weight or size.  ARFID is more common in boys than girls and starts earlier than other eating disorders so can affect their development and growth, although it can develop in adults.


It’s not known what causes ARFID but there are several reasons that could contribute to its development.  People are more likely to suffer from ARFID if they were fussy eaters as children and carried this trait into adulthood.  Have learning disabilities, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) or being on the autism spectrum can be a contributory factor.

Some people are simply sensitive to the smell, taste, texture or temperature of certain foods.  This might be because they have had a bad experience when eating.  It might have made them ill, caused stomach discomfort or resulted in them choking or vomiting.  As a result of this, they can develop anxiety related to eating certain types of food.  For others it can be that they aren’t aware they are hungry or have a poor appetite.  This can make eating less enjoyable and more of a chore, so they find it hard to eat sufficient amounts, and having to do so becomes a source of anxiety and stress.

Adults who develop ARFID can have other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Symptoms of ARFID  

As the reasons for having ARFID vary, so can the symptoms and the way they present in different people, but they will always have the food avoidance and restriction symptoms in common.

Physical symptoms can include:

  •     Reduced weight gain and growth in children, thinning of the hair and the growth of fine body hair, dry skin, brittle nails, abnormal menstrual periods
  •     Stomach pains, muscle weakness, poor immune function and wound healing, low thyroid or iron levels
  •     Feeling cold all the time
  •     Slow heart rate, dizziness, fainting, poor sleep patterns, swelling in the feet

Psychological and behavioural changes can include:

  •     Trying to hide weight loss by wearing layered clothing
  •     Needing to wear more clothes even when the weather is warm as they always feel cold
  •     Lack of appetite, aversion to certain foods, a fear of choking or vomiting, and not wanting to eat in public
  •     Poor attention or struggling to focus

Treatment for ARFID

If you or your child are suffering with ARFID you should see your doctor who can prescribe medication to help with anxiety, poor appetite, and nutritional deficiencies.  Treatment will be tailored to your specific needs and can include seeing a dietician, speech therapist and psychotherapist.  Written by Jan Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free information click above link.

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