What Are Feeding Disorders?

Feeding Disorders

A feeding disorder involves a child or adult not eating enough to fuel their nutritional needs, although their reasons for not eating enough are not due to concerns about appearance, body shape, or weight. Feeding disorders include pica, rumination disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Although feeding disorders can affect people of all ages, they are most commonly diagnosed in children.


Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating items that don’t have nutritional value and aren’t typically thought of as food, such as chalk, string, paper, soap, clay, dirt, ice, and more. There is no one cause of pica, though unusual cravings may be a sign of low nutrient levels. There are several health risks related to eating non-food items and it is important to seek the advice and care of a medical professional.

Rumination disorder

Rumination disorder involves a person eating and then regurgitating (bringing swallowed food back up into the mouth) to be chewed again, re-swallowed, or spit out. This behavior happens soon after eating a meal and does not seem to require a lot of effort from the person.

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) happens when a person has an eating disturbance and avoids foods based on their sensory experience. ARFID can lead to nutritional deficits, low energy, poor health, and limited growth in children. A person may avoid foods or whole food groups based on the texture, temperature, or other food related fears (e.g., fear or choking, vomiting or food contamination).

  • A lack of interest in eating or foods in general
  • Restricting foods based on fear
  • Inflexible eating behaviors
  • Poor weight gain/growth
  • Fear or anxiety around eating certain foods/textures
  • Food limitations impact person’s wellbeing
  • Avoidance of food groups (ex. fruits, vegetables, grains, protein)