ARFID eating disorder – It runs in the gene

The fear of weight gain and peer pressure has psychological effects on a person, mostly children or growing teens. With time this turns into eating disorders affecting the physical and mental health of the same. Around 9% of the world suffers from eating disorders, and 6% are diagnosed as medically underweight. Scientists over the years have given several names to these habitual defects with eating. And is commonly known as ARFID eating disorder or anorexia. Recent studies have suggested ARFID runs in the family genes, and that does expose us to a lot of questions. Carry on with your reading task and find out more about the same.

ARFID eating disorder definition

ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), earlier known as “selective eating disorder,” stands for picky eaters. These people also lack a general interest in food and never feel hungry compared to other human beings. Also, their appetite to eat does fade with food’s smell, texture, color, and taste.

ARFID in children



ARFID in Children
Children always end up disliking the act of eating food

As per the ARFID test results, children as young as six can suffer from the disease. And the intensity of the disease is the same for both girls and boys. As children, not everyone is a picky eater, and incidents like vomiting and choking do make them afraid of food. These children are also diagnosed with other forms of problems like:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders or anxiety.
  • ADHD (attention deficit disease) and autism.
  • Problems at home or in the school they go to.

ARFID in adults

ARFID in Adults
Adults end up losing interest in food

Symptoms of ARFID can also be seen in full-grown adults. They just start refusing to different food types and tasting extremely segregated food choices, which is otherwise not common for all. Also, thoughts of allergic reactions, choking, and vomiting make people give up on their urge for food. When a person starts fearing their intake of daily portions of food, a rise in anxiety around daily eating habits can be seen around their usual behavior.

What is the difference between ARFID eating disorder and Anorexia?

The primary thought process in a person suffering from Anorexia is anxiety with an increase in weight. The individual starts to eat less on purpose and chooses to starve instead. As anorexia symptoms, these people do not like the existing look of their body and do feel conscious all the time. They carry on throughout the day, “fat shaming” themselves. Anorexia is more of a psychological trigger. Teens, specifically girls, and women in their middle ages, suffer from the same.

ARFID, on the contrary, is more about people losing their will to eat. These people are not tempted by food and have specific preferences that they say yes to. They give up on eating, guided by the fear of vomiting, problems with digestion, and choking. Past experiences make them fearful of the things served on their plate, and most of the time, the individual either ends up eating what they like or nothing at all.

Proof of ARFID genetic

So far, life experiences and psychological triggers did make it to the list of common ARFID causes. However, the latest studies suggest that human genes have a potential role. This leaves us with the question, “Does ARFID run in families?”

Scientists monitored 16,951 pairs of twin children born between 1992 and 2010, and out of them, 682 kids aged six to twelve were diagnosed with the disease. After conducting thorough data analysis, the researchers did conclude that 79% of the disease is based on hereditary factors inbuilt into genes. The other 21% is based on psychological factors and past incidents.

The significance of the study lies in the type of sample chosen. Behaviors detected in the twins have a clearer take on “how genetics can play a significant role in diseases getting passed on from one generation to the next.” Here, the trait detected in both twins has a higher potential to get termed as a disease than seen in one of them.

ARFID treatment inputs and facts

Here is a list of the basic treatment and facts relevant to ARFID.

ARID eating disorder treatment

The main goal is to help the patent (child/adult) overcome their food-related trauma. It requires the patient to consult a dietician, doctor, and therapist. Here are the things that one needs to achieve:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and follow a comprehensive eating pattern.
  • There must be a notable increase in the intake of food variety.
  • Getting accustomed to various eating habits without the fear of choking.

Also, parents must stop themselves from force-feeding their children. As such, an act will only level up their sense of distress and anxiety around food.

ARFID facts

Here is a list of general facts related to ARFID eating disorder:

  • The patient undergoes significant weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and a lack of interest in food.
  • ARFID eating disorder is genetic in most cases. The parents undergo a severe lack of interest in food, which passes on to the child.
  • The individual diagnosed with ARFID does feel a sense of anxiety and trauma around food. Extracurricular activities like yoga, art, meditation, and music can help them control stress levels.
  • Individuals suffering from ARFID are also termed “picky eaters.”
  • Children and adults complain of feeling sick when given a certain item to eat.

Ways to support a child with ARFID eating disorder

It is too early for children to understand the severity of the disease, and it is on us as adults to help them cope. As an added support, here is a list of various ways anyone as a parent/adult can help a child with an ARFID eating disorder.

ARFID eating disorder
Help your child in need

Introduce them to small proportions of new food

As already discussed, most of the time, ARFID runs in the human gene. It is also common in children with ADHD, OCD, or autism. That way, dealing with them will be challenging, and you must be patient. As a parent or guardian to the child, introduce new food (in small proportions) daily. Let them take a bite at the beginning and slowly increase the portion over time.

Stick to the particular habit

There will be days when your child might react upon tasting new food. But that does not mean you will put a halt to your effort. Carry on with your task, making them taste fresh food. With time, this will help increase the child’s tolerance level, stabilizing their eating habits.

Let them select for themselves

After a week of food tasting, make your child decide for themselves. Take them to the grocery shop and ask the to choose. Also, you can list the already-tasted food and ask them to select from it. The primary intention is to make them feel safe and secure with food. They must get over the fear of food tasting.

Practice the same on yourself

Because ARFID is 79% genetics, you, as a parent, must follow the steps listed above. Remember, your child looks up to you, which puts your behavior under scrutiny.

The way our brain and body function has a lot to do with what we eat. Never ignore symptoms like lack of appetite, feeling sick from the smell of a certain item, and being unable to finish off the food served on a plate. If you are undergoing such a process, seek professional support. Help others or your child in case it is someone else.


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