Other eating problems

As well as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating there are other eating problems. If your relationship with food is worrying you, we're here to help. 

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

What is ARFID?

When someone restricts the amount of food they eat or avoids certain foods or types of food, this is called avoidant/restrictive food inake disorder, or ARFID. This isn't done to lose weight or because of someone's beliefs about body shape and size, it's usually caused by:

  • sensory sensitivity
    This means they might be sensitive to the appearance, texture, smell, appearance or taste of food. It also means that they may only want to eat food at a certain temperature.
  • the fear of negative consequences
    Sometimes, experiences like choking, vomiting or severe abdominal pain can make people worry. When this happens, it sometimes makes them afraid that it could happen again, so they restrict themselves to eating ‘safe’ foods.
  • a low interest in eating
    Some people have a poor appetite, struggle to recognise when they're hungry or just don't like eating food, which means they might not eat enough. 

Possible signs of ARFID

Because ARFID involves a range of difficulties around food, the signs of it can vary. These include:

  • being anxious at meal times, chewing food carefully
  • taking a long time to eat meals
  • feeling full after eating a little food and struggling to eat more
  • finding it hard to recognise when they are hungry
  • sensitive to the appearance, smell, texture or taste of food
  • always eating the same meals

Other specific feeding/eating disorders (OSFED)

Sometimes, the symptoms of an eating disorder are similar to anorexiabulimia and binge eating but not exactly the same. When this happens, they are called Other Specific Feeding or Eating Disorders, or OSFED. These include the following:

  • atypical anorexia
    The symptoms of atypical anorexia are all the same as anorexia, the only difference is that weight stays within the person's normal range. 
  • binge eating (low frequency/limited duration)
    Low frequency and/or limited duration bulimia means that someone has all the symptoms of a binge eating disorder but it doesn't happen as often, or over as long a period of time. 
  • bulimia nervosa (low frequency/ limited duration)
    Low frequency and/or limited duration bulimia means that someone has all the symptoms of bulimia but it doesn't happen as often, or over as long a period of time. 
  • purging
    This is when someone purges by being sick or using laxatives, but this isn’t part of a binge/purge cycle.
  • night eating
    When you repeatedly eat at night, for instance lots of food after your evening meal, or if you wake up in the middle of the night, this is called night eating. 

Watch: Do I have an eating problem?

Watch: Having a healthy lifestyle

Getting help

If you think you may have an eating disorder or you are worried in any way about your relationship with food and eating, there is always help available to you. Eating disorders can cause health problems, so it is important to get help and it is possible to recover with the right support. The only way to know for sure if you have an eating disorder is to speak to a doctor, so, the first step is to try and talk to your own doctor. If you're unsure, our visiting your doctor advice might help. 

It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your worries, so you could try our conversation starter which might make it a little easier. You could also try talking to Childline if you're worried about getting help. We're always here to support you. There is also help available on the Beat Eating Disorders website.

Contacting Childline

Other sites we recommend: 

  • Beat has lots of support for young people experiencing eating problems, including a helpline
  • YoungMinds has more advice to help with eating disorders