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what is arfid?

Learn about your disorder, from us.

So, what exactly is an eating disorder?

Every eating disorder is different. So to understand what ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) is, you need to understand what an eating disorder is (in a general sense).

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. They are not a choice or a lifestyle. It is a "mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations" (NHS, 2021).


Eating disorders thrive in isolation, and the pandemic has created the perfect storm for some young people. Just because they are struggling with one area doesn't mean they aren't struggling with another area of their mental health.


Eating disorders don't care what your gender, ethnicity or background is. They can be sudden and, for some people, life threatening.

What is ARFID?

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that first arrived in 2013 when the DSM-4 was updated to the DSM-5. Before the DSM-5, the condition was referred to as "Selective Eating Disorder" or "picky eating".

We believe that the term "picky eating" can be dangerous and, as such, will not be mentioning it anywhere else on this page.

ARFID is similar to anorexia because both disorders involve limitations in the amount or types of food consumed. Yet, unlike anorexia, ARFID does not involve any distress about body shape, size, or fears of fatness. Although many children and young people go through phases of picky or selective eating, a person with ARFID does not consume enough calories to grow and develop properly and, in adults, maintain essential body functions.

In children, this results in stalled weight gain and vertical growth; in adults, this results in weight loss. ARFID can also result in problems at school or work due to difficulties eating with others and extended times needed to eat.

How is someone diagnosed with ARFID?

According to the DSM-5, ARFID is diagnosed when:

  • An eating or feeding disturbance (e.g., apparent lack of interest in eating or food; avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food; concern about aversive consequences of eating) as manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one (or more) of the following:

  • Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children).

  • Significant nutritional deficiency.

  • Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements.

  • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning.

  • The disturbance is not better explained by lack of available food or by an associated culturally sanctioned practice.

  • The eating disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and there is no evidence of a disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced.

  • The eating disturbance is not attributable to a concurrent medical condition or not better explained by another mental disorder. When the eating disturbance occurs in the context of another condition or disorder, the severity of the eating disturbance exceeds that routinely associated with the condition or disorder and warrants additional clinical attention.

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