Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) has only recently been recognized as an eating disorder in the DSM-5, which is the guide used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental health problems. Many parents refer to this behavior in their children as “picky eating,” which may be partly descriptive, but is not totally accurate.
Individuals with ARFID have difficulty eating to the point where it is having a major impact on their social functioning or their physical health (such as having very low body weight or requiring nutritional supplements to stay healthy). The reasons for these eating difficulties are often due to (1) a fear of choking or vomiting or some other feared outcome, (2) a sensitivity to certain food textures, tastes, or other qualities of the food, or (3) a general lack of appetite or interest in food. Many people seeking help for ARFID are children or teens, but many adults struggle with ARFID as well.
The best-known treatments for ARFID to date include elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Family-Based Treatment (FBT; i.e., Maudsley Method).