The goal of PEAS is to lend assistance to individuals with ARFID or other type of feeding disorder and help spread awareness and acceptance within society in general. Those of us who have genuinely suffered with this condition only want to help others and share the information we have gathered with our readers.

Here is a list of several conditions along with a short definition that may contribute to picky eating habits in adults. Click on the title to learn more.

ARFID or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

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.

In May 2013 ARFID was added to the DSM-5, that is The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition.

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

For decades doctors and clinicians have suspected there is a connection between OCD and eating disorders. (Remember now, not all eating disorders are ARFID related. There are conditions such as anorexia and bulimia and binge disorder that have no real correlation to Picky Eating in Adults.) Numerous studies have shown that those with eating disorders have statistically higher rates of OCD. As recently as 2004, Kaye, et al., reported that 64% of individuals with eating disorders also possess at least one anxiety disorder, and 41% of these individuals have OCD in particular. Now the challenge for clinicians becomes recognizing whether the condition is a particular form of OCD, or actually an entirely separate but related disorder with symptoms that merely have an obsessive-compulsive quality to them.

The OCD traits that seem most prevalent in Picky Eating Adults are: food mixing and/or touching; chunky texture; color. If any of these restrictions are violated it makes the food inedible.

Learn more about OCD here (warning – it is very clinical, might need a professional to explain it)

Dysphagia or Swallowing Disorder

Nearly all Picky Eating Adults report having had problems with feeding or eating as a child. Many PEAs have also stated that their parents noted there was a problem with swallowing. Signs of disphagia can include:

  • arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • irritability during feeding
  • refusing food or liquid
  • difficulty chewing
  • gagging during meals
  • frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • less than normal weight gain

If you want more information, or would like to find a professional to help with a swallowing disorder, click here.

Taste Aversion

A conditioned taste aversion can occur when eating a substance is followed by illness. For example, if you ate a lentil soup for lunch and then became ill, therefore, you avoid eating lentil soup in the future, even if the food you ate had no relationship to your illness. The thought of the food associates with the bad feelings of the illness and you no longer desire the food.

Few Picky Eating Adults this site has had the pleasure of knowing have ever reported a taste aversion related to an illness. The aversion to the food exists before they ever place it in their respective mouths. The factors of smell, color, texture and number of ingredients can exclude a food item before it ever gets to the point of being tasted.

If you are a PEA with a taste aversion due to a specific event, please let us know on the contact page.

Smell and Taste Disorder

The loss of smell and/or taste has been tied to reduced nutritional intake, reduced pleasure and lowered psychological wellbeing. Many of us have experienced a lack of appetite that comes along with the stuffy nose of a common cold. That lasts just a week! Consider you were unable to smell or taste your food 24/7. That would take a toll on appetite and make meals difficult.

If you feel you have lost your sense of smell and/or taste, consult your doctor. There may be help available. More info on the condition here.


Arthur L. Fox , a chemist for Dupont collaborated with Albert F. Blakeslee, a genetist to determine a test to see if a set of participants could taste a compound known as PTC (phenylthiocarbamide). Their work discovered that approximately 25% of the population are non-tasters, 50% of the population are medium tasters and 25% of the population are super tasters.

Interestinly, women are more likely to be super tasters and com from Asia, South America or Africa. Bet you thought it would be North America, right?! The cause hasn’t been proven conclusively, but is believed to be tied to the presence of the TAS2R38 gene and the increased number of fungiform papillae (taste buds).

The evolutionary advantage of the super tasting gene is suspected to relate to avoiding toxic plant alkaloids which taste bitter generally.

A super taster may be a picky eating adult, but not all picky eating adults are super tasters.

Food Neophobia

Food Neophobia is the fear of eating new or unfamiliar foods. Food neophobia is particularly common in toddlers and young children. It is often related to an individual’s level of sensation-seeking, meaning a person’s willingness to try new things and take risks.

In the case of Picky Eating Adults it is not so much a case of fear, but a sense of knowing at this point in life that the food in question is not going to be a pleasant experience.

Autism and Aspergers

Autism, Aspergers and those on the spectrum often have eating and/or feeding issues. Many have limited palates and touching food can cause melt downs for children and adults in some situations.
Those on the spectrum generally have sensory issues and food is an all out assault on the senses: sight, smell, taste, texture and even sound! It is not unusual for someone with Asperger’s to have a very bland diet of pasta, baked chicken, plain potatoes, etc. Might sound boring to many, but this is the description of the perfect meal of a friend of mine.