Diagnosis of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

A diagnosis is made via a medical professional’s evaluation, tests to check for physical disorders, and evaluation for other mental disorders.

Medical professionals suspect avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder in individuals who avoid food or eat very little and have one or more of the following:

  • Significant weight loss or, in children, not growing as expected;
  • A severe nutritional deficiency;
  • The need for tube feeding or for nutritional supplements taken by mouth;
  • Great difficulty participating in normal social activities and interacting with others; and/or
  • No evidence of a distorted body image.

When individuals eat so little that they lose weight and develop nutritional deficiencies, medical professionals typically do tests for physical disorders that can cause such problems. Such physical disorders include food allergies, digestive tract disorders that impair food absorption (malabsorption), and cancer.

Medical professionals also consider other mental disorders that lead to weight loss, such as other eating disorders (particularly anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa), depression, and schizophrenia.

Medical professionals do not diagnose avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder if individuals restrict their food intake because food is unavailable or is part of a cultural tradition (such as religious fasting).

Usually, medical professionals also do not diagnose avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder if they identify another disorder or a medical treatment (such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy) as the cause.

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