What is ARFID: The Picky Eater Question

If your child is an extremely picky eater, parents may wonder if he or she may have an eating disorder. There is a type of eating disorder associated with being a finicky eater called the Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

What Is ARFID?

ARFID is an eating or feeding disturbance that results in significant weight loss or failure to gain the appropriate amount of weight for appropriate developmental growth in children. Other symptoms include having a nutritional deficiency, needing to take supplemental nutrition by enteral or oral administration, and/or having impaired mental and social functioning.

Picky Eaters Without an Eating Disorder

Your child may simply be a very choosy eater without having an eating disorder like ARFID. Some hallmarks of being a picky eater include:

  • Not eating enough of a variety of different types of food
  • Unwillingness to taste new food items
  • Not wanting to eat certain foods because of the way they look, smell, taste, or feel

Although your child may display some or all of the above symptoms by being a picky eater, they should still be getting the nutritional requirements necessary for growth and wellness.

When An Eating Disorder Is Suspected

A child who has an eating disorder will restrict their food intake beyond reasonable limits. In order to tell whether your child is a picky eater or suffers from an avoidant-restrictive eating disorder, here are some signs to look for:

  • Your child eats only a small handful of food items. Perhaps they will accept only pasta, grilled cheese, and cereal, and nothing else.
  • Your child limits the foods they will eat based on whether it’s a certain color. Some children with an eating disorder, for instance, will eat only foods that are white.
  • The texture of the food your child eats determines their diet. For example, they will only eat foods that are soft and reject foods that are crunchy.
  • Your child has a fear of eating that is not rational. This fear interferes with the ability to obtain nutrition needed for growth and development, leading to acute medical issues.

If you believe your picky eater may have an eating disorder such as ARFID, diagnosis and treatment are available. Here at Tapestry, we offer therapies that empower you and your family to enable and encourage a balanced life for all.