Signs & Symptoms ARFID

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

What is ARFID?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder classified by the unhealthy disturbance in body shape and image resulting in the refusal to maintain a minimum body weight. Individuals will go to extreme measures not only to starve themselves, but also to rid their bodies of any caloric intake they consumed through self-purging mechanisms such as self-induced vomiting, laxative, diuretics and extreme exercise.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), oftentimes characterized as “extreme picky eating,” is an eating disorder impacting thousands of individuals, particularly children. The meaning of “fear food” in clients with ARFID differs from clients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia. For individuals with ARFID the fear may stem from knowing they must eat, when they have no interest in eating, fearing the temperature might not be what they like, fear of choking or becoming sick or fear of eating a new food.

Types of ARFID

  1. Lack of interest: clients with this type of ARFID have a genuine lack of interest in eating and food. They also get full quickly.
  2. Sensory Avoidance: clients with sensory avoidance have issues with food tastes, textures, temperature and smells.
  3. Fear of Aversive Consequences; fear of illness, choking, nausea and allergies

Symptoms & Warning Signs

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  • A short list of acceptable foods
  • Eating foods of similar characteristics, such as crunchy in texture, or colorless
  • Preferences for particular food preparation methods
  • Avoidance of vegetables, protein sources (meat, beans, etc), fruit
  • Eliminates foods and never gains them back into the diet
  • Poor weight gain and growth (child may also be of normal weight and growth)
  • Nutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C most common)
  • Skips one or more entire food groups
  • Becomes emotional or demonstrates stress around unfamiliar foods
  • Food limitations negatively impact normal social behaviors


ARFID does not have one root cause; instead, researchers and clinicians have explored a variety of potential contributing factors, such as biological, psychosocial, and environmental influences.

  • A child who is already predisposed to ARFID due to biological or genetic makeup may be triggered by environmental or psychosocial situations, such as a traumatic event.
  • Since there can be disrupted eating patterns among other mental illnesses, co-occurring diagnoses – such as anxiety disorders, developmental disabilities, and autism may exacerbate – may also be present.
  • In autism and other developmental disabilities, an individual’s relationship to their body and senses are already very heightened.

Risks & Complications

  • Malnutrition
  • Weight Loss
  • Developmental delays
  • Co-occurring anxiety disorders
  • Failure to gain weight (children)
  • Gastrointestinal complications

In addition to these health factors, children struggling with ARFID oftentimes experience heightened isolation and slower social development as a result of their disordered eating patterns.

Treatment for ARFID

The good news is that recovery is possible! Treating Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder requires highly specialized care with an expert treatment team that is specifically-trained in this illness, as well as any co-occurring illnesses.

Seek Help

If you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out to us. Center for Discovery’s Treatment Centers specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.

For more information, resources, or to consult with one of our specialists, call 866.482.3876.

Preferred In-Network Provider for All Major Health Insurance

Preferred In-Network Provider for All Major Health Insurance

  • I was sent to [Center for Discovery], an all women's eating disorder treatment facility, and I was terrified to go. I was told I would be there for a month and would return home after that. I ended staying there for almost 3 months, and I can honestly say I am beyond thankful for my time there. I learned so much and they helped me find myself and get over my traumas and learn to cope with issues that I was having. All the staff was super helpful and had my best interest at heart. I may have not liked all of them, but I knew they wanted what was best for me. Even after my insurance run out, the therapist I was working with arranged for me to go to another center to continue my treatment because I was not ready to come home. I highly recommend getting help with Center for Discovery. They truly care!
    Rebecca S
  • I was at [Center for Discovery] for 6 weeks. I'm from Ohio and being so far away from home was hard. The staff made me feel super comfortable and cared for, making my stay much more manageable. The program was very individualized. They worked hard to make sure my specific needs were met and that my specific behaviors were addressed. This is a top notch facility with incredibly caring staff. Not only were the house staff wonderful, but everyone from admissions to the medical director worked hard to make sure I knew what was going on. This is a wonderful company who are true to what they say. They gave me my life back. I'm someone who has been in and out of treatment for my eating disorder and this program was by far the best. I feel so optimistic about my future. The progress I made there was life changing and I will be forever grateful. I recommend this program to anyone who is serious, willing, and ready to get better.
    Natalie F
  • I was surprised by my parents with the option of going to get help for my eating disorder and overall unhealthy lifestyle. I so badly wanted to get help, but was too ashamed. After talking to my mom I agreed to at least talk to someone from Center for Discoveryabout what program I would be in and what it would be like. The gal was super helpful, kind, and did not make me feel like I was the only person who suffered from what I did. She was very patient with me and overall helped out our family with the process of insurance and costs and what not. As for the actual facility I stayed at, it was a great experience.
    Rebecca S
  • We had our son in an acute care hospital and the social worker recommended the Center for Discovery. Before our son was discharged, my wife and I met with the staff and toured the facility. We were impressed by the staff and how the program was structured. Our son was there 6 weeks. It was a game changer and now we feel our son left with a good base of skills that he has continued to use. We now feel our son can leave a normal type life and not have to worry that he may need to live in a group home setting as an adult. We can't say enough for the help and support we received from the entire staff at the Center for Discovery. When we were considering the facility we did some reviews on line. Some weren't overly positive, but most were and we feel that it was a very positive experience for our son and our family. Even our son now admits that he learned some great skills and that his time at Center for Discovery turned his life around.
    John W
    Parent of Alumni

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