Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

A causality dilemma: ARFID, malnutrition, psychosis, and hypomagnesemia

International Journal of Eating Disorders
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS


We present a novel case of a woman with coincident occurrence of auditory and visual hallucinations, electrolyte disturbances, chloride unresponsive alkalosis, and an eating disorder. The patient was ultimately diagnosed with Gitelman syndrome comorbid with schizophreniform disorder and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Eating disorders are often associated with electrolyte abnormalities which, in turn, can cause or contribute to other neuropsychiatric symptoms. At the same time, psychotic disorders can lead to food intake aversions or overconsumption of fluids with associated effects on electrolyte balance. In this case, a third factor, Gitelman syndrome, resulted in persistent hypomagnesemia with metabolic alkalosis and, while separate from her eating disorder, simultaneously reinforced the patient's strong food preferences, excessive fluid intake, and excessive movement related to her complaints of persistent joint pain.

Written by

Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS

Dr. Philip S. Mehler began his career at Denver Health more than 35 years ago and was formerly its Chief of Internal Medicine and then Denver Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) until he was promoted…

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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