Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a serious mental illness where a person avoids or only eats small amounts of certain foods based on factors such as their appearance, food group, texture, smell or past experience.
Identified by classifying foods as either ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’, ARFID can cause a person to become seriously ill because their bodies aren’t getting all the nutrients they need. Some people with ARFID will need to receive nutritional supplements or enteral (tube) feeding.
ARFID is similar to anorexia nervosa in that it is an eating disorder based around restricting food intake; however, the intent of ARFID is very different from anorexia. People with ARFID do not restrict food as a way to lose weight and it doesn’t affect the way they feel about their bodies. Rather, a person with ARFID has a relationship with certain types of foods that can prevent them from eating.
For example, a person may have had a bad experience, such as choking or vomiting, after eating something crunchy and now will refuse to eat anything crunchy in future. They might be sensitive to anything too hot or too cold, anything with a strong smell, of a certain colour or shape. Generally, there is a lot of anxiety or fear around food, which causes them to avoid it altogether. In some cases, the sufferer may simply be, or appear to be, uninterested in eating.