Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) | Aster Springs

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) previously referred to as “selective eating disorder” is like anorexia in that both disorders involve limitations in the amount and/or types of food consumed. However, unlike anorexia, ARFID doesn’t involve any distress about body shape or size or fears of weight gain.

Although many children go through phases of picky or selective eating, a person with ARFID doesn’t consume enough calories to grow and develop properly and, in adults, to maintain basic body function. In children, this results in stalled weight gain and vertical growth; in adults, this results in weight loss and severe medical complications associated with malnutrition. ARFID can also result in problems at school or work, due to difficulties eating with others and extended times needed to eat.

Overview of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare’s AVP of Clinical Services, Kate Fisch, LCSW, discusses avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder and how Aster Springs approaches treatment.

Types of ARFID

There are four different types of ARFID, including:

Signs and Symptoms of ARFID

Symptoms of ARFID include:

Health Consequences of ARFID

Because both anorexia and ARFID involve an inability to meet nutritional needs, both disorders have similar health consequences, including:

How We Treat ARFID

To treat ARFID, our clinicians create an individualized treatment plan for each client based on their specific needs and diagnosis. Some of the evidence-based clinical treatment modalities we utilize to treat ARFID include:

Frequently Asked Questions

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by limited food preferences and avoidance of certain types of foods based on sensory aspects, such as texture, taste, or smell. Individuals with ARFID often experience anxiety or disgust towards particular foods, leading to severe dietary restrictions and potential nutritional deficiencies.
  1. Avoidant ARFID: Avoidance of foods in relation to features such as taste or texture, that cause sensitivity to overstimulation. Often found to be “supertasters” or have a biologically based heightened sensitivity to certain tastes.
  2. Restrictive ARFID: Avoidance of food due to low appetite, premature fullness, or lack of hunger cues. Adults will forget to eat or find eating a chore; children will often become distracted during mealtimes.
  3. Aversive ARFID: Food refusal or avoidance based on fear of aversive consequences such as vomiting, choking, GI pain, or allergic reaction. Sometimes based on an actual traumatic event or witnessing a traumatic event, but not always. Underlying pre-disposition for anxiety disorders and/or feeding disorders.
When it comes to treating Avoidance/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), a well-rounded and supportive treatment team is assembled. This team is made up of several specialists, each bringing their unique expertise to the table. The treatment team usually consists of a therapist, a dietician, a medical provider, a recovery coach, a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, and an applied behavior analysis professional. Together, this diverse team collaborates to create a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.
One of the leading treatment modalities for ARFID is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ARFID (CBT-AR). This treatment is a manualized, 4-stage approach to treating ARFID through the framework of cognitive behavioral therapy across 20-30 sessions. The primary objective of CBT-AR is to guide the client toward a point where they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for ARFID by the end of the treatment. The stages are as follows:
  1. Stage 1, Psychoeducation and early change
  2. Stage 2, Treatment Planning
  3. Stage 3, Address maintaining mechanisms in each ARFID sub-type
  4. Stage 4, Relapse prevention
Exposure Response and Prevention Therapy, Interoceptive Awareness Training, Family Based Treatment, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT are the major evidence-based approaches for ARFID.
Kate Fisch LCSW Headshot - Aster Springs


Kate Fisch, LCSW

Kate Fisch is the AVP of Clinical Services for Odyssey’s Eating Disorder Network. With 17 years of clinical leadership and direct client care experience in the eating disorders field, she has a history of innovation, clinical training, and resource development in a variety of eating disorder treatment settings supporting families, clients, and clinicians.
If you’d like to learn more about ARFID treatment program or our other treatment offerings, the compassionate team at Aster Springs is here to help.