The challenges of parents of children with extreme picky eating and ARFID

Parents of children who have extreme picky eating or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) (sometimes also called selective eating) face many challenges. One of our major roles as parents is to nourish our children. From breast or bottle feeding right through to making sure they are eating well as adolescents and adults, parents are involved in nourishing our children at every step along the way. What happens if your child suddenly or gradually starts refusing the foods you offer? What happens when mealtimes become tense and drama-filled when your child only agrees to eat white foods? What happens when the grandparents come for dinner and criticize or blame you for what your child is or isn’t eating? What happens when your healthcare provider refuses to hear your concerns and responds with, “Let him get hungry enough, then he’ll eat!”? How do parents of children with ARFID find community, support, and validation for what they are facing in finding appropriate treatment for their children?

We at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders hear you and understand the enormous challenges you face in trying to find appropriate care for your child. At CEED, not only do we provide the most current treatments for ARFID (see, but we are also leading the world’s largest study designed to isolate genetic and environmental factors that cause ARFID. ARFID - Genes and Environment (ARFID-GEN)  is inviting 6,000 children, adolescents, an adults with ARFID to participate in a research study that can be conducted entirely online and involves sending us a saliva sample for genetic analysis. Our goal is to identify the genetic factors that increase the likelihood that someone will develop ARFID and eventually contribute knowledge to improving detection, prevention, and treatment of the illness. We encourage you to learn more about the study and to participate if interested. For more information about ARFID-GEN, please explore our website or call a member of our study team at 984-215-6503.

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