DSM-IV

In DSM-IV, this disorder is called Feeding Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Feeding disturbance as manifested by persistent failure to eat adequately with significant failure to gain weight or significant loss of weight over at least 1 month.

B. The disturbance is not due to an associated gastrointestinal or other general medical condition (e.g., esophageal reflux).

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Rumination Disorder) or by lack of available food.

D. The onset is before age 6 years.

Differential Diagnosis

Common feeding problems in infancy

Minor problems in feeding are common in infancy. The diagnosis of Feeding Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood should be made only if the eating problem results in significant failure to gain weight or loss of weight.

General medical condition

This disorder is not diagnosed if the feeding disturbances are fully explained by a gastrointestinal, endocrinological, or neurological condition. Children with an underlying general medical condition may be more difficult to feed, and the diagnosis of Feeding Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood should not be made in such cases unless the degree of disturbance is of greater severity than would be expected on the basis of the general medical condition alone. The diagnosis is suggested if there is improvement in feeding and weight gain in response to changing caregivers.

DSM-5

Diagnostic Criteria

A. An eating or feeding disturbance (e.g., apparent lack of interest in eating or food; avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food; concern about aversive consequences of eating) as manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one (or more) of the following:

  1. Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children).
  2. Significant nutritional deficiency.
  3. Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements.
  4. Marked interference with psychosocial functioning.

B. The disturbance is not better explained by lack of available food or by an associated culturally sanctioned practice.

C. The eating disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and there is no evidence of a disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced.

D.The eating disturbance is not attributable to a concurrent medical condition or not better explained by another mental disorder. When the eating disturbance occurs in the context of another condition or disorder, the severity of the eating disturbance exceeds that routinely associated with the condition or disorder and warrants additional clinical attention.

Specify if:

  • In remission: After full criteria for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder were previously met, the criteria have not been met for a sustained period of time.

Differential Diagnosis

Appetite loss preceding restricted intake in a nonspecific symptom that can accompany a number of mental diagnoses. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can be diagnosed concurrently with the disorders below if all criteria are met, and the eating disturbance requires specific clinical attention.

Other medical conditions (e.g., gastrointestinal disease, food allergies and intolerances, occult malignancies)

Restriction of food intake may occur in other medical conditions, especially those with ongoing symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. A diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder requires that the disturbance of intake is beyond that directly accounted for by physical symptoms consistent with a medical condition; the eating disturbance may also persist after being triggered by a medical condition and following resolution of the medical condition.

Underlying medical or comorbid mental conditions may complicate feeding and eating. Because older individuals, postsurgical patients, and individuals receiving chemotherapy often lose their appetite, an additional diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder requires that the eating disturbance is a primary focus for intervention.

Specific neurological/neuromuscular, structural, or congenital disorders and conditions associated with feeding difficulties

Feeding difficulties are common in a number of congenital and neurological conditions often related to problems with oral/esophageal/pharyngeal structure and function, such as hypotonia of musculature, tongue protrusion, and unsafe swallowing. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can be diagnosed in individuals with such presentations as long as all diagnostic criteria are met.

Reactive attachment disorder

Some degree of withdrawal is characteristic of reactive attachment disorder and can lead to a disturbance in the caregiver-child relationship that can affect feeding and the child's intake. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should be diagnosed concurrently only if all criteria are met for both disorders and the feeding disturbance is a primary focus for intervention.

Autism spectrum disorder

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often present with rigid eating behaviors and heightened sensory sensitivities. However, these features do not always result in the level of impairment that would be required for a diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should be diagnosed concurrently only if all criteria are met for both disorders and when the eating disturbance requires specific treatment.

Specific phobia, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), and other anxiety disorders

Specific phobia, other type, specifies "situations that may lead to choking or vomiting" and can represent the primary trigger for the fear, anxiety, or avoidance required for diagnosis. Distinguishing specific phobia from avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can be difficult when a fear of choking or vomiting has resulted in food avoidance. Although avoidance or restriction of food intake secondary to a pronounced fear of choking or vomiting can be conceptualized as specific phobia, in situations when the eating problem becomes the primary focus of clinical attention, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder becomes the appropriate diagnosis. In social anxiety disorder, the individual may present with a fear of being observed by others while eating, which can also occur in avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

Anorexia nervosa

Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to significantly low body weight is a core feature of anorexia nervosa. However, individuals with anorexia nervosa also display a fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, as well as specific disturbances in relation to perception and experience of their own body weight and shape. These features are not present in avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, and the two disorders should not be diagnosed concurrently. Differential diagnosis between avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder and anorexia nervosa may be difficult, especially in late childhood and early adolescence, because these disorders may share a number of common symptoms (e.g., food avoidance, low weight). Differential diagnosis is also potentially difficult in individuals with anorexia nervosa who deny any fear of fatness but nonetheless engage in persistent behaviors that prevent weight gain and who do not recognize the medical seriousness of their low weight - a presentation sometimes termed "not-fat phobic anorexia nervosa." Full consideration of symptoms, course, and family history is advised, and diagnosis may be best made in the context of a clinical relationship over time. In some individuals, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder might precede the onset of anorexia nervosa.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder may present with avoidance or restriction of intake in relation to preoccupations with food or ritualized eating behavior. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should be diagnosed concurrently only if all criteria are met for both disorders and when the aberrant eating is a major aspect of the clinical presentation requiring specific intervention.

Major depressive disorder

In major depressive disorder, appetite might be affected to such an extent that individuals present with significantly restricted food intake, usually in relation to overall energy intake and often associated with weight loss. Usually appetite loss and related reduction of intake abate with resolution of mood problems. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should only be used concurrently if full criteria are met for both disorders and when the eating disturbance requires specific treatment.

Schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Individuals with schizophrenia, delusional disorder, or other psychotic disorders may exhibit odd eating behaviors, avoidance of specific foods because of delusional beliefs, or other manifestations of avoidant or restrictive intake. In some cases, delusional beliefs may contribute to a concern about negative consequences of ingesting certain foods. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should be used concurrently only if all criteria are met for both disorders and when the eating disturbance requires specific treatment.

Factitious disorder or factitious disorder imposed on another

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder should be differentiated from factitious disorder or factitious disorder imposed on another. In order to assume the sick role, some individuals with factitious disorder may intentionally describe diets that are much more restrictive than those they are actually able to consume, as well as complications of such behavior, such as a need for enteral feedings or nutritional supplements, an inability to tolerate a normal range of foods, and/or an inability to participate normally in age-appropriate situations involving food. The presentation may be impressively dramatic and engaging and the symptoms reported inconsistently. In factitious disorder imposed on another, the caregiver describes symptoms consistent with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder and may induce physical symptoms such as failure to gain weight. As with any diagnosis of factitious disorder imposed on another, the caregiver receives the diagnosis rather than the affected individual, and diagnosis should be made only on the basis of a careful, comprehensive assessment of the affected individual, the caregiver, and their interaction.

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