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ARFID vs Anorexia: What Is the Difference?

By Cristiana , in General , at May 9, 2023

About 24 million people in the U.S. suffer from eating disorders. Eating disorders are both common and incredibly dangerous, and they can affect anyone regardless of age and gender. 

There are many different types of eating disorders, but two that people often mix up are ARFID and anorexia. We’re here to talk about these two conditions so you know the difference. Read on to learn more. 

What Is ARFID?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is one of many types of eating disorders. People with ARFID avoid or restrict certain foods and food groups. They have limited diets and eat only a small variety of foods. They’re very sensitive to the texture, color, or smell of certain foods.

ARFID is largely a sensory problem and it’s more common amongst people with autism.

ARFID can have serious consequences on a person’s health. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health problems. Some people with ARFID may also experience social isolation and difficulty participating in social activities that involve food.

Treatment for ARFID involves a combination of therapy and nutritional counseling. Doctors encourage patients to develop a healthier relationship with food and expand their diet to include a wider variety of foods over time. 

What Is Anorexia Nervosa? 

Anorexia nervosa (often just called anorexia) is a mental illness. It causes people to have an intense fear of gaining weight. This leads to them restricting the amount of food they eat and sometimes engaging in excessive exercise.

People with anorexia nervosa often have a distorted perception of their body image, believing that they are much larger than they actually are. This is called body dysmorphia. It can lead to people becoming dangerously thin because they restrict even when they’re at a low body weight.

Anorexia is a serious condition that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s physical and mental health. It can be fatal without proper treatment. 

Treatment for anorexia involves a combination of therapy, medication, and nutritional counseling. These help patients develop healthier eating habits and improve their mental and physical well-being.

The Difference Between ARFID and Anorexia 

From the outside, ARFID and anorexia may look similar, but they’re very different disorders. 

Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with ARFID do not have a fear of gaining weight or a distorted body image. They restrict food for sensory reasons. People with anorexia restrict largely due to their body image. 

Both conditions require therapy and nutrition coaching, but the goals of treatment are different. People with ARFID need to expand their diets while people with anorexia need to eat more and improve their self-image to repair their relationships with food. 

ARFID and Anorexia: Similar, But Different

ARFID and anorexia are both eating disorders that can have serious outcomes. While they look similar to people who don’t suffer from them, they’re not the same. They require different treatment methods and have different underlying causes. 

If someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, make sure they seek help.

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