What Are the Main Causes of ARFID?

What Are the Main Causes of ARFID?

Young teen refuses food placed in front of him.

Children’s appetites can vary from kid to kid. Maybe they try everything you put in front of them, or maybe they latch onto a few favorites they request every night. Lots of kids are picky about their food. However, there is a difference between having some favorite foods and being overly picky to the point of malnourishment. In these cases, the child may have developed avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

What Is ARFID?

Most commonly found in children but can also carry over into the early teens, ARFID is an eating disorder that develops and presents as picky eaters with little interest in eating other foods. They have a limited number of preferred items they gravitate towards, but any attempt to expand their horizons is met with extreme resistance. Children and teens suffering from ARFID can experience stunted growth and have poor nutrition compared to their peers.

Eating disorders are unfortunately increasingly prevalent in teens. Girls most commonly suffer from anorexia and bulimia. However, boys tend to suffer ARFID more frequently compared to the more common disorders.

What Are the Signs of ARFID?

Before bringing your child in for eating disorder treatment, you’ll want to know whether they developed this condition or if something else is happening. Most children with ARFID have trouble making weight milestones, have limited interests in food, and avoid specific types of food. However, knowing where the line between normal childhood behavior and a full-blown selective eating disorder becomes vital. Here are some of the following symptoms:

  • Don’t feel hungry
  • Have issues with smell, taste, texture, or color of foods
  • Pronounced fear of pain, choking, or vomiting

While there hasn’t been one exact cause associated with a child developing ARFID, there are still some commonly related factors. Most research has narrowed the possible causes to critical factors — genetics, sociocultural, and psychological factors.


While many people may not link genetics to their evolving relationship with food, genetic predispositions can significantly impact how we interact with our nutrition from a young age. Eating disorders are familial conditions that have gone down from generation to generation.

Additionally, environmental factors can play an important role in a child developing ARFID. The still-developing child takes behaviors and input from the world around them like a sponge. If they observe unhealthy relationships with food or see restrictive food intake become the norm, they are more likely to develop ARFID.


Society and culture begin influencing behaviors and habits from an incredibly young age. Sometimes, the child believes they have to look a certain way to be considered “healthy” or “popular” and will go to extreme lengths to accomplish those goals. Like anorexia, ARFID significantly reduces caloric intake to include only certain foods and nothing else. These behaviors can also greatly influence their beliefs about certain foods and their role in their life moving forward.


An overwhelming number of adults believe that things like eating disorders, mental health conditions, and psychological trauma don’t affect young children. Their lives remain untouched by the cruel realities of the world, and they can live their childhoods in ignorant bliss. However, psychological trauma and mental health disorders can affect people of ages and backgrounds, leading to the development of conditions such as ARFID.

What Are the Treatment Options for ARFID?

While the child can feel ARFID’s side effects for years, treatment options are available to help them work through their condition and live healthier lives. It may be a complex eating disorder that can lead to malnourishment and stunted growth; specialized mental health treatment programs can help your child learn how to cope with their condition and develop a more well-rounded nutritional regimen.

At Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment, we treat every patient 13 years and older with a personalized plan for their recovery. From our youngest case to our eldest, we work with you to determine the best treatment for their situation. We want to help you or your child; however, we can work through your complicated relationship with food and live a healthier lifestyle. Discover more about our personalized ARFID treatment options in Long Beach, California, today! Call us at 562-434-6007 or connect with us through our contact page.