Picky Eater vs. Food Intake Disorder: Know the Major Differences

The signs and symptoms of picky eater and ARFID patients may be similar but both are different problems.

2 min read
Hindi Female

Children are often picky eaters and they tend to choose their favorites or make a fuss about eating their basic meals. But do you ever wonder if your child’s picky eating is more than just picky eating? Research proves that the majority of toddlers and young children experience some type of picky eating and it is considered as a normal part of childhood development. Picky eating can become dangerous and medical or psychological intervention may be required.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by an eating or feeding disturbance that prevents a person from meeting nutritional or energy requirements. Picky eating and ARFID are similar in ways that they both have a limited range of food that patients are willing to eat, but there are various other differences one must know.


1. Sudden Weight Loss

An ARFID patient may demonstrate sudden or significant weight loss as a result of sensory sensitivities, aversions to food, or lack of interest in food that results in restrictive eating. Aversions or sensory sensitivities may be due to an adverse event or effect of eating like vomiting, choking, or a real allergic reaction. On the other hand, picky eaters are able to maintain weight despite their limited food selection and they do not lose weight due to symptoms like vomiting and choking.

2. Failure to Gain weight

Children diagnosed with ARFID may not be able to gain weight which means that a child has fallen off their expected growth trajectory and has difficulty in thriving or growing from an early age. Adults with ARFID may find it difficult to maintain weight since they fail to meet the nutritional requirements. Picky eaters get enough nutrition and calories for proper growth and development.

ARFID patients may feed through tubes or stay on nutritional supplements to obtain appropriate nutrition. Picky eaters eat enough foods and they do not require supplementation to meet caloric needs.

3. Disturbance in Psychosocial Functioning

ARFID patients may find it difficult to eat in different settings like a friend’s house, in cafeterias, or at events. Not only this, but they may also find it difficult to be around certain types of foods. They might experience intense anxiety that may limit their social settings and result in isolation while a picky eater attends all social activities with little to no distress.

4. Sensory Sensitivities

A picky eater may not eat certain foods due to their intolerance to the smell or look of a food but they have no problem with the variety of textures, smells, and visual presentations of food. However, people with ARFID will experience intense anxiety that may cause an inability to consume foods because of their texture, taste, smell, visual presentation, etc.

5. Lack of Interest in Food

ARFID patients are rarely interested in food or eating and they may not be hungry, might not think about food, and may forget eating because food is not a priority for them. On the other hand, picky eaters often feel hungry, are interested in eating the foods they like, and do not lack interest in food and eating.

The line between ARFID and picky eating is often blurred cad you may be confused as to if your child’s picky eating may become a problem in the future.

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Topics:  Eating Disorder 

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