Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is an eating disorder characterised by eating very little food and/or avoiding eating certain foods.

It does not include:

  • Having a distorted body image (as occurs in anorexia nervosa); or
  • Being preoccupied with body image (as occurs in bulimia nervosa).

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can cause substantial weight loss, slower-than-expected growth in children, difficulty participating in normal social activities, and sometimes life-threatening nutritional deficiencies.

Medical professionals base the diagnosis on the nature of the restricted food intake and its effects after they have ruled out other causes of eating very little.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help individuals learn to eat normally and help them feel less anxious about what they eat.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder typically begins during childhood and may initially resemble the picky eating that is common during childhood.

For example, children may refuse to eat certain foods or foods of a certain colour, consistency, or odour. However, picky eating typically involves only a few foods, and children who are picky eaters, unlike those with this disorder, have a normal appetite, eat enough food overall, and grow and develop normally.

Individuals with avoidant/restrictive food intake may not eat because they lose interest in eating or because they think eating has harmful consequences.

They may avoid certain foods because of their colour, consistency, or odour.

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