Picky eating is common among children and isn’t necessarily a red flag for an eating disorder on its own. However, extreme picky eating that persists throughout late childhood, adolescence, or adulthood is a sign of a more serious issue.
Symptoms may look similar to those of anorexia but without a strong desire to change their appearance. In fact, in adults with ARFID, weight loss is often accidental. Here at Aster Springs, we are happy to provide you with this guide on ARFID after childhood.
What is ARFID?
Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a disorder where aversions to certain foods make it difficult to get enough nutrients. While it is seen more commonly in children, someone at any age can have or develop ARFID.1
ARFID Symptoms in Adults
Specific symptoms of ARFID vary depending on the type of the disorder and can vary from person to person. However, there are some signs commonly seen in people with ARFID, including:
- Significant weight loss
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Resistance to trying new foods
- Picky eating
- Not letting foods touch on your plate, even if they’re both foods that you like
- Strong preference for certain brands of foods
- Fear of vomiting or choking
- Loss of appetite or lack of interest in food
- Abdominal pain2
ARFID can also be a fear-based response based on a past event. For example, someone who choked on food may be afraid to eat for fear of choking again. Alternatively, someone with a severe food allergy may develop a fear of eating due to the concern of reacting. When these types of aversions begin to result in nutrient deficiencies, significant weight loss, or affect your quality of life, it’s time to seek help.
What Causes ARFID?
We don’t know what causes ARFID. A combination of genetics, psychological factors, and environment likely plays a role in the development of this condition. We know that some people are at higher risk for developing ARFID:
- Neurodivergence – There are a higher proportion of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with ARFID.
- History of anxiety disorders
- History of gastrointestinal disorders, neurological disorders, or food allergies
- History of trauma involving food, such as choking or vomiting3,4
Treatment for ARFID in Adults
ARFID is not strictly a childhood disorder but can affect anyone at any age. If you or a loved one is suffering from any of these symptoms, you are not alone.
Once you have been diagnosed, there are treatment options for adults suffering from ARFID. At Aster Springs, we have a team of trained health professionals who can help create a treatment plan that is right for you. To get started on your path to recovery, find the location nearest you.