Picky Eater or Eating Disorder?

Sep 30, 2016

While some children and young adults may be labeled or seen as a “picky eater” they may actually be suffering from ARFID or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.  ARFID is one of the new categories of eating disorders that has recently been introduced in the updated version of the DSM-5.  This disorder is an eating or feeding disturbance that’s characterized by a persistent failure to meet one’s appropriate nutritional or energy needs.   Signs of ARFID may include the following symptoms:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in a child
  • Significant nutritional deficiency
  • Dependence on oral nutritional supplements
  • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning

It’s also important to understand what ARFID is not.  ARFID is not:

  • Associated with body image issues or how one perceives their body weight or shape
  • The result of lack of available food
  • Explained by another medical or mental disorder

In our practice we are often asked what’s the difference between ARFID and anorexia.

ARFID is often confused with anorexia nervosa because weight loss and nutritional deficiency are common shared symptoms. However, the primary difference between ARFID and anorexia is that those suffering from ARFID lack a drive to achieve thinness.  Unfortunately, the true prevalence of ARFID is unknown, due in large part to lack of understanding of the diagnosis. ARFID affects both genders and as mentioned above is more common in children and young adolescents; however, it can occur in late adolescence and adulthood as well.

If you or a family member may be suffering from ARFID or would like to know more about this disorder please feel free to contact us.