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Dual DiagnosisEating Disorders

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

A Source of Fear and Anxiety

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID, was previously known as a selective eating disorder. Professionals thought that it only affected infants and children. However, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders renamed it and broadened the criteria. It now includes adults who restrict their food intake and struggle with related mental or physical issues. Those who suffer from ARFID often find aspects of certain foods intolerable. This can include texture, smell, or appearance. They might also have a phobia of certain foods. Some lack interest in food entirely, eating only when necessary. This may sound like anorexia nervosa on the surface. However, anorexia includes body dysmorphia or an obsession with weight loss. With ARFID, the food itself – not the calories it contains or the imagined consequences of eating it – is a source of fear and anxiety.

Signs of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder appears to be picky eating. However, it differs because the food limitation becomes extreme enough to start affecting a person’s life. This is usually through a nutritional deficiency or psychosocial issues. In addition, they may show physical signs similar to other eating disorders, such as dry skin, brittle nails, or constantly feeling cold. These are all signs of malnutrition.

On the other hand, they may avoid meals with family and friends or complain of a mysterious gastrointestinal issue around mealtimes. Because the behavioral range of this eating disorder is so broad, it is difficult to pinpoint specific risk factors associated with the disease. However, people with autism spectrum conditions or mental health issues such as OCD and ADHD are more likely to develop ARFID, as do those with a trauma history.

Some Good News

The good news is that avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is treatable. Research shows that modern therapeutic approaches such as cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy are effective, as in nutritional therapy. Exposure therapy, in which the client gradually receives a wider range of foods, has also been successful in treating ARFID, as has group and family counseling.

If you or someone you love is suffering from avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder and seeking a luxury rehab program, please consider contacting Ocean Recovery today. Our Orange County alcohol rehab and eating disorder programs include CBT, DBT, nutritional counseling, and more in our individualized treatment plans, designed to put our clients in the best possible position for a lasting recovery. So call us today and start building your foundation for success.


Ocean Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Cherry K. How Mental Health Professionals Use the DSM Today. Verywell Mind. Published May 30, 2022. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. Zimmerman J, Fisher M. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Curr Probl Pediatr Health Care. 2017;47(4):95-103. doi:10.1016/j.cppeds.2017.02.005

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Last medically reviewed August 1, 2022.