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Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder


Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a complex eating disorder characterized by limited food intake due to sensory sensitivity, fear of aversive consequences, or lack of interest in eating. While ARFID presents unlike other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa because ARFID is not driven by body image concerns, individuals with ARFID may still experience significant nutritional deficiencies. Treatment often involves a multidisciplinary approach, including therapy to address underlying anxiety or sensory issues, as well as nutritional support to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients.

There are three types of ARFID presentations. One type is Avoidant, which is characterized by avoidance of foods due to sensory features such as food textures, colors, or smells. Another type is Aversive which is often a fear based refusal of food, which may include a fear of chocking, nausea, vomiting, pain or other averse consequence of eating. The third type of ARFID is Restrictive where individuals experience little to no interest in food, often experiencing low appetite and having a very limited food repertoire.


Children with ARFID may have difficulty transitioning to solid foods or may refuse to eat entire food groups, leading to growth delays and nutritional deficiencies. In adults, ARFID can impact daily functioning, social interactions, and overall quality of life. Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive assessment by healthcare professionals, including a registered dietitian, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Early intervention is crucial for improving outcomes and preventing long-term health complications. Treatment includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, nutritional counseling, and support from a healthcare team experienced in treating eating disorders.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is the diagnosis used for individuals who experience significant challenges with eating that lead to nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, or impaired psychosocial functioning. To receive a diagnosis of ARFID, the individual must exhibit one or more of the following:


1. Significant weight loss or failure to achieve expected weight gain or growth.

2. Nutritional deficiency.

3. Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements.

4. Significant interference with psychosocial functioning.


ARFID is distinguished from other eating disorders by the absence of body image disturbance and the presence of restrictive eating behaviors not attributable to cultural or religious practices, lack of food availability, or another medical condition.

If one or more of the above symptoms are present for you, please know you don't have to suffer and treatment is available. We provide a multidisciplinary treatment approach including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention and nutritional counseling which research shows it provides the best results for the treatment of ARFID. Exposure therapy is tailored to meet your own individual needs and so we provide in office exposure, as well as outside of the office and home visits.

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