Shortened to ARFID, and previously referred to by a number of terms (including selective eating disorder, food phobia, food avoidance emotional disorder, and many others), avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is an illness in which someone restricts their eating by eating smaller amounts of food, or avoiding certain foods or food groups. This means they don’t get all of the nutrients or amount of energy (calories) that they need, and they may need nutritional supplements or enteral (tube) feeding.
If, based on someone’s symptoms, the doctor feels it would be appropriate to diagnose them with anorexia, bulimia, or OSFED, they wouldn’t diagnose the person with ARFID at the same time. However, it is possible that someone could be diagnosed with ARFID before or after experiencing another eating disorder. ARFID would not be diagnosed in someone who is fasting or chooses not to eat certain foods for religious or cultural reasons alone.
There are many different reasons that someone might develop ARFID. For example, they might be very sensitive to the taste, texture or appearance of certain types of food, or have had a distressing experience with food, such as choking or vomiting – this may cause the person to develop feelings of fear and anxiety around food, and lead to them to avoiding food. In some cases, the sufferer may simply be or appear to be uninterested in eating.
ARFID can affect anyone of any age, and is diagnosed more often in children than adults. People with autism, anxiety disorders, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may be more likely to develop ARFID.
If you’re worried about yourself or somebody you know, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible, as ARFID can lead to malnutrition if left untreated.