Eating Disorder: ARFID

Sienna Guptill

Have you ever questioned your eating habits? Maybe you don’t eat because of certain textures of foods or the colors of other foods.  Maybe sometimes you think of the idea that if you eat this food you’re going to feel sick and die. This is a difficult disease to live with and it’s a struggle. 

The Disease Itself 

What is ARFID and how does it affect a person? ARFID is often described as being a form of “extreme picky eating.” Dr. Kim DiRé, a trauma and eating disorder specialist, states that: “Avoidant/Restrictive Eating Disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder like no other. The fear of food and/or the consequences translates in ARFID individuals as “if I eat that, I will die.” Being afraid to do something like eating in this situation is quite frightening to a lot of individuals. So practically your brain is telling you can’t eat, you will die. 

“ARFID is characterized by the persistent and clinically significant failure to meet requirements for nutrition and/or energy intake in the absence of body image disturbances.” According to the team of Schmidt, R., Hilbert, A., Kirsten, T., Hiemisch, A., & Kiess, W. (2019).  What your body is lacking and what ARFID is making someone’s body look and feel like. That’s what some people think of when someone tells them about ARFID.   

“Rates‌ ‌of‌ ‌ARFID‌ ‌are‌ ‌between‌ ‌5%‌ ‌and‌ ‌14%‌ ‌in‌ ‌pediatric‌ ‌inpatient‌ ‌ED‌ ‌programs‌ ‌and‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌22.5%‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌pediatric‌ ‌eating‌ ‌disorder‌ ‌day‌ ‌treatment‌ ‌program.”According to the team of Norris, M. L., Spettigue, W., & Katzman, D. K. (2016). The difference between someone that is in an eating disorder program meaning they are undercare 24/7 and being watched vs someone who is in a program for a day and it is under supervision 24/7. 

The Cause of the Disease

What is the cause of ARFID? What are the struggles behind it? “The physiological constriction of the mouth tissues, throat, and digestive tract from the fear stops the ability to eat a variety of foods.” According to Dr. Kim DiRé, a trauma and eating disorder specialist. Feeling like your body is going to go into overdrive when it experiences anxiety based on what foods are being shown. “Case studies show that many people with ARFID have suffered from a traumatic childhood experience: a choking incident as a toddler; a feeding issue as an infant; an umbilical cord around the neck during the birth; or even in-utero trauma.” According to Dr. Kim DiRé, a trauma and eating disorder specialist. Anything can really make ARFID happen. “ Specifically, children commonly have a lower verbal ability and lower ability for introspection than their parents, or may respond in a socially desirable way, resulting in more ambiguous diagnostic information for the rater,” says Schmidt, R., Hilbert, A., Kirsten, T., Hiemisch, A., & Kiess, W. (2019) 

The Treatment 

Finding a way to help yourself even if you don’t think you need the help is always a good thing to think about when it comes to eating disorders.  Dr. Kim DiRé, a trauma and eating disorder specialist said, “Therapy and treatment are needed to help retrain the breached tissues in the body of a person with ARFID so that they will become tolerant of even trying the tiniest bite of something new. It is a sensory disorder that affects the body in a significant way. The healing of ARFID changes the lifestyle and nutritional foundation of the person in treatment” Being able to talk to someone about their feelings or what’s happening in their life is the way that people are able to overcome their eating disorders.


What students hopefully get out of this while reading it is that having an eating disorder is serious and taking care of yourself should be the first thing to think about when it comes to taking care of your mental health. Making sure of your health and not trying to hurt yourself because you might think about yourself (body image) in a different way. People need to understand that not all bodies are the same.