What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)?

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a feeding disturbance characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional or energy needs. The symptoms of ARFID are similar to anorexia nervosa, without a drive for thinness, and can lead to serious health consequences and medical complications. 

ACUTE’s inpatient medical stabilization unit treats the most extreme forms of ARFID in which patients experience life-threatening medical complications. ACUTE is capable of treating these highly complex and fragile patients, many of whom have suffered greatly from widespread misunderstanding of severe ARFID in the greater medical community. 

Symptoms of Severe ARFID

  • Intentional caloric restriction resulting in weight loss
  • Absence of drive for thinness

Types of ARFID


Sensory sensitivity, aversion or over-stimulation result in limited, inadequate diet


Aversive or fear-based experiences (ie. nausea, choking, vomiting, problems swallowing) contributes to food refusal


Apathy related to feeding or eating (low appetite, low interest); extreme pickiness prevents sufficient caloric/nutritional intake

Medical Complications of ARFID

Facts about Severe ARFID

  • Anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder are common psychiatric issues observed alongside ARFID.  
  • Widespread misunderstanding of the ARFID diagnosis has challenged the field to estimate prevalence. 
  • ARFID affects both genders; it may be more common in children and young adolescents but can occur in young and mature adults. 
  • ARFID can be misdiagnosed as anorexia nervosa due to shared symptoms of low weight and malnutrition; the major difference between ARFID and anorexia is that patients with ARFID do not have a drive for thinness. 

Learn More About Severe ARFID

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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