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Eating Disorder Treatment May be the Prescription for Overly Picky Eaters

If you think eating disorders are just about anorexia and bulimia, there’s another one to add to the list: neophobia. What might be viewed as just picky eating by some, neophobia or selective eating disorder is characterized by an individual being overly selective when it comes to what they eat. Texture and smell may be keeping them away from certain foods, and it can be so severe that some people limit their calories and nutrients to the point of starvation.

Research is being done on picky eating at both Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh. Results show that some adults never grow out of picky eating habits. Neophobia is much more serious than just avoiding one or two foods, it can get to the point where a person has limited their list of acceptable foods to a list so short that it can interfere with their everyday lives. Like other eating disorders, neophobia can cause stress on relationships with friends and family, careers and more. Doctors are beginning to notice that people with severe selective eating disorders are showing traits similar to anorexia. In the long-term, individuals may face heart and bone problems because they aren’t receiving the nutrients that their bodies need to function on a healthy level.

Selective eating disorder is becoming more well-known, and the American Psychiatric Association is already considering including it in the update of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is a touchstone for physicians who handle eating disorders in their practice. Adding neophobia to the manual will not only make the disorder more readily identifiable, it can put more focus on research for both treatment and prevention.

One theory is that the roots of selective eating disorder can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder or autism, since characteristics such as an aversion to the smell and texture of foods is present in all of the disorders. Treatment for selective eating disorder includes the slow integration of more food into a patient’s diet and helping them overcome their embarrassment about food preferences to their friends and family.

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