How ARFID Affects Mental Health in Adults: Exploring the Emotional Impact

How ARFID Affects Mental Health in Adults: Exploring the Emotional Impact

Most people have some foods that they don’t like, and some adults identify themselves as picky eaters. However, extreme picky eating or avoidance of food may actually be a form of an eating disorder.

Let’s look at the specific signs that selective eating may indicate a disorder, its negative impact on relationships and mental health, and how to find support to heal your relationship with food.

ARFID Symptoms In Adults

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder where someone is very restrictive about what foods they eat or may not want to eat altogether. This may be due to disinterest in food, sensitivity to certain sensory aspects of eating, or fear of something bad happening if they eat.1

Signs and symptoms of ARFID include the following:1

  • Significant weight loss
  • Not eating foods with certain textures
  • Severe picky eating patterns, often to the point of only eating a small number of foods
  • Fear of choking or vomiting
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Inability to tolerate foods touching on plate

ARFID can easily be mistaken for anorexia nervosa. It’s important to note that people with ARFID are not afraid of weight gain and do not have significant body image issues. Weight loss is usually an unintentional consequence of their food avoidance. The resulting malnutrition can result in severe, life-threatening health issues.

Duration of PHPs and IOPs

Studies have shown increased symptoms of social anxiety, depression, and OCD in adults with ARFID.2 People with autism spectrum disorder and learning disorders may be more likely to suffer from ARFID.3

Struggling with food can be extremely isolating. Every social event involving food feels awkward and anxiety-provoking. For people suffering from ARFID, it’s not that they aren’t hungry or don’t feel like eating. The anxiety around food makes it feel seemingly impossible to eat. If they force themselves to try a new food, they become overwhelmed and may even start gagging.

Family and friends may not understand. Most people are used to normal picky eating among young children, but may be more critical of severe picky eating in adulthood. This may lead to frustrations about why their loved one won’t “just” eat. This is a core misunderstanding of their loved one’s eating disorder, but nonetheless may lead to feelings of rejection, judgment, or poor self-worth.

This is one reason why getting treatment is incredibly important.

Getting Help for Adult ARFID

At Shoreline, you won’t be judged for your struggle with food, but will instead be met with compassion and support. Our experienced team of therapists and dietitians can help you work through your anxiety around food and provide a safe space to renourish your body. To learn more about treatment, give us a call at 562-434-6007 or fill out our contact form.


  1. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid
  2. https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-016-0110-6
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1538544217300494