Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

What is Avoidant /Restrictive Food Intake Disorder ARFID?

Some individuals notice that their eating preferences and experiences are different to others. They may find foods they can eat are limited based on their appearance, smell, taste, temperature, texture, brand, presentation, or having had a past negative experience (eg choking, vomiting, significant abdominal pain) with particular food. This can cause individuals to avoid certain foods / textures due to feelings of fear and anxiety around the consequences of eating, perhaps only eating ‘safe foods’.  For some individuals they may not recognise sensations of hunger or they may generally have a poor appetite and may restrict their intake because of a low interest in eating.  ARFID was previously known as selective eating disorder (SED), it is a type of eating disorder, which can have an adverse affect on health, but the good news is that people respond well to treatment.


It is important if you think you might have this ARFID, that you seek expert help and advice.


What causes ARFID?

ARFID is different from other eating disorders as beliefs about weight and shape do not contribute to the avoidance or restriction of food intake.There is no single cause for ARFID and the latest research indicates  that it develops as a result of genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors.

What is the Treatment?

At insighteating we tailor the treatment of ARFID to the needs of the individual, based on the specific difficulties that the individual is experiencing and is maintaining these. It is likely to involve evidence-based treatments such as family-based treatment (for young people), cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural interventions We might also want to monitor your physical health with the help of your GP.

Possible Symptoms / signs of ARFID

  • Eating a reasonable range of foods but overall having much less food than is needed to stay healthy.
  • Finding it difficult to recognise when hungry.
  • Feeling full after only a few mouthfuls and struggling to eat more.
  • Taking a long time over mealtimes/finding eating a ‘chore’.
  • Missing meals completely, especially when busy with something else.
  • Sensitivity to aspects of some foods, such as the texture, smell, or temperature.
  • Appearing to be a “picky eater”.
  • Always having the same meals.
  • Always eating something different to everyone else.
  • Only eating food of a similar colour (e.g. beige).
  • Attempting to avoid social events where food would be present.
  • Being very anxious at mealtimes, chewing food very carefully, taking small sips and bites, etc.
  • Weight loss (or in children, not gaining weight as expected).
  • Developing nutritional deficiencies, such as anaemia through not having enough iron in the diet.
  • Needing to take supplements to make sure nutritional and energy needs are met. (Source BEAT 2019)


Insighteating offer assessment and treatment for a range of ARFID presentations.