How to Differentiate Picky Eating from Eating Disorder

How to Differentiate Picky Eating from Eating Disorders

Many parents know the struggle of getting their children to eat nutritious foods all too well. Most of the time, they can get them to eat their fruits and veggies with a little coaxing and negotiations, leaving all right with their ongoing development. However, in some cases, these bouts of picky eating could signify something more serious — an avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Sometimes the behavior can continue into adulthood especially for those with autism or other neurodiverse conditions.

As you figure out how to differentiate picky eating from eating disorders, Aster Springs is here to help provide this comprehensive guide to help identify the differences between picky eaters and ARFID.

Sudden or Significant Weight Loss

Maybe you had some concerns when your adult child was young. As children continue to grow and develop, a major component of that process is their total weight as time progresses. While it’s true some may be small for their age, if there are signs of significant weight loss that pushes them too far in the opposite direction after holding steady, it could be a sign of ARFID.

They could have developed sensory sensitivities, aversions to specific types of food, or even developed a lack of interest in food that led to their restrictive eating habits. These could have been caused by a negative event, such as choking, vomiting, or an allergic reaction, that created a real sense of trauma. This fear led them to avoid being put in that situation again.

If you’re dealing with a picky eater, they can usually maintain their weight despite only eating select items — they’ll compensate for what they don’t eat with more desired foods. For those with ARFID, it’s a much more difficult task because of that intense fear they feel.

Trouble Eating in Social Situations

For many young children, one of their first experiences eating out in social settings is when they go over to their friend’s house to eat with their family. This can become an emotionally fraught scenario for children with ARFID as they’re trying to figure out what they can and can’t eat and begin to feel intense anxiety over the lack of control over their diet. Perhaps now as an adult, they will avoid these situations entirely, leading to feeling more isolated from their peers and missing out on social interactions.

Sensory Sensitivity

One of the key reasons why someone with ARFID may not like a certain food is based on their other senses. Whether it’s consistency, texture, smell, or presentation, something about that particular item does not sit well with them, and they actively avoid it.

On the surface, it may appear increasingly similar to picky eating, but people with ARFID experience increased anxiety. They will show signs of visible distress if presented with the food they’re trying to avoid. For example, they could begin gagging or spitting out the offending food instead of eating it.

Lack of Interest in Eating

A major difference between picky eaters and those with ARFID comes down to one sensation — do they feel hungry? Those with the condition will say that they aren’t, don’t think about food, and even forget to eat because it’s not a high priority for them. Picky eaters will still get hungry and think about food, mainly focusing on the same few items to get their nutrition.

Find Compassionate ARFID Treatment Services in Richmond, Virginia

When dealing with an adult suffering from ARFID, you want to find a treatment center that gets to the heart of the problem and provides the necessary support for recovery. Aster Springs has the right combination of experience and knowledgeable staff that work with each patient to develop a personalized eating disorder treatment that works for their particular situation.

If you or a loved one wants to learn more about our treatment services, find the location nearest you today.

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