Difference between ARFID and Anorexia Nervosa

Nutritional deficits and weight loss are shared characteristics of ARFID and anorexia nervosa, two different eating disorders. ARFID is distinct from anorexia since those who suffer from it have no motivation to lose weight and have no interest in eating.

People who suffer from anorexia nervosa are often preoccupied with their physique. Neglecting meals, limiting energy intake, going on extremely low-calorie diets out of a fear of gaining weight, and other symptoms of intense psychological concern over one's body are all hallmarks of this condition.

What is ARFID?

The avoidance or limitation of food intake and clinically significant inability to achieve needs for nutrition through oral food intake define ARFID (formerly known as Selective Eating Disorder), a feeding or eating issue. Weight loss of more than 10% of initial body weight, severe malnutrition, need for oral nutritional supplements or enteral feeding, or considerable impairment in social functioning are all symptoms of this illness.

To disguise their thinness, they may dress in layers, provide the same vague justifications for missing meals, and eat only a small selection of foods. The eating disorder is not the result of a scarcity of food, a cultural norm, an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, or a coexisting medical condition.

Picky eating in children and decreased food intake in adults are examples of developmentally acceptable habits that should not be confused with ARFID. As an example, some people have a very high threshold for the color, smell, texture, taste, and warmth of particular meals. Aversive events, such as choking, and vomiting, might potentially shape a negative response. The onset of ARFID often occurs in infancy or early childhood, and it may last throughout maturity for some people (DSM-5, 2013).

Having a mother with an eating disorder, a history of gastrointestinal problems, and the presence of additional mental health conditions (such as anxiety disorders, autism-spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) all increase the likelihood that a child will develop an eating disorder (DSM-5, 2013).

Both family counselling and medicine (such olanzapine, which helps with anxiety and increases appetite) are used in the treatment of ARFID (Spettigue, 2019). Registered dietitian nutritionists, occupational therapists, developmental paediatricians, gastroenterologists, psychologists,psychiatrists, and adolescent health physicians may all be helpful to those living with ARFID (Caporuscio, 2019).

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

In anorexia nervosa, the sufferer becomes preoccupied with and distressed by thoughts of food and body image to an unhealthy degree. Symptoms include a disproportionate and irrational concern with gaining weight, a lack of interest in social activities, self-consciousness about one's appearance, hypotension, and a decreased tolerance for cold.

This condition differs from ARFID in that sufferers are not obsessed with eating but rather have a crippling dread of gaining weight and seeing their bodies change shape as a result.

Differences: ARFID and Anorexia Nervosa

The following table highlights the major differences between ARFID and Anorexia Nervosa −



Anorexia nervosa


Those who suffer from this eating disorder tend to have trouble consuming enough amounts of food on a regular basis and may be quite choosy about the foods they do consume.

It's a mental disease and eating disorder defined by severely limiting one's caloric intake due to an excessive worry about gaining weight and looking unattractive.


  • Significant weight loss

  • Sudden refusal to eat foods

  • Fatigue

  • No body image struggles

  • No fear of weight gain

  • Fear of choking or vomiting

  • No growth or delayed growth

  • Nutrient deficiencies (vitamin A, B, C, D, iron, calcium is the common)

  • Abdominal pain

  • Cold intolerance

  • Malnutrition

  • Becomes emotional or demonstrates anxiety and displeasure around unfamiliar foods

  • Only eating food with particular structures

  • Excess energy

  • Co-occurring anxiety disorders

  • Fast weight loss

  • Dizziness

  • Starvation

  • Fainting

  • Yellow skin

  • Irregular heart beat

  • Abnormal blood count

  • Small meals

  • Abnormal pain and constipation

  • No menstruation

  • Artificially induced vomiting after eating

  • Sleep disorders

  • Constant feeling of cold

  • Fear of excess weight

  • Amenorrhea

  • Halitosis

  • Bluish fingers and brittle nails

  • Swollen arms and legs

  • Dry skin and hair loss

  • Increased liver enzymes

  • Loss of bone calcium (osteoporosis)

  • Decreased libido in adults

  • Teeth erosion form purging

  • Dehydration


  • An individual predisposed to ARFID due to his genes may get this condition triggered by certain external factors like the environmental, sociocultural and psychosocial situations, like some traumatic episode. Disrupted and erratic eating patterns exist in other mental disorders, dual diagnosis or comorbidity – such as depression disorders, cognitive disabilities, and autism may exacerbate the issue of ARFID Sensory aversion

  • Heredity

  • Depression

  • Gastrointestinal tract diseases

  • Mental disorder

  • Drug addiction

  • Alcoholism


Malnutrition, gastrointestinal issues, and a lack of essential nutrients are all consequences of these two conditions, ARFID and Anorexia Nervosa. Those who suffer from either of these conditions typically struggle with distraction, vertigo, and even fainting. Both conditions are characterized by a lack of appetite and consequent malnutrition.

Updated on: 01-Mar-2023


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