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Picky eating: a real disorder or not?


It's easy to label someone as a picky eater if they seem generally fussy or unadventurous when it comes to food.

But what seems like an "immature" palette may actually be a more complicated thing - it may be selective eating disorder, or what is also referred to as "adult picky eating."

Selective eating disorder was officially added to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) last year, giving it a more clear definition and pulling it from being lumped into the "eating disorders not otherwise specified" category where it was before.

But what is adult picky eating, really? And can it be cured?

Signs and symptoms

The DSM states that selective eating disorder usually involves eating less than 20 foods and rejecting entire food groups (normally meat and/or vegetables).

The condition is associated with OCD, food trauma, ASD, oral-motor delay or gastrointestinal disorders.

It's not uncommon for people with selective eating disorder to be repulsed by the texture, taste, or smell of certain foods, or to refuse unfamiliar foods despite hunger.

In an article on the Huffington Post, one young woman talks about how selective eating disorder affected her social life when she was a teenager:

When I was invited to a junior prom, my date took me to dinner before the dance, as dates tend to do. I ordered a side of french fries. At first, he thought I was trying to be thrifty, since he was picking up the tab, and encouraged me to get whatever I wanted. But that was all I wanted. I didn't try chicken until I was 20, so it was literally the only thing on the menu I ate.

Can you outgrow it?

According to Psych Central's John M. Grohol, Psy.D., some adults may outgrow selective eating disorder, but some may not.

"Nobody knows why picky eating occurs in children or adults, but what little research has been conducted (mostly in children) suggests that it may or may not be directly related to food (for instance, one study of 8- to 12-year-olds found that picky eating was more related to problem behaviors, not eating disturbances," he wrote.

In a Wall Street Journal article on the topic, one selective eater said she's tried to change her ways, but to no avail.

"You wouldn't put a handful of grass in your mouth and chew it up," she said. "I feel the same way about spaghetti. I really wanted to like it, but my body wouldn't let me."

According to the Mayo Clinic, behavioral and psychological problems may be at the root of selective eating disorder - and addressing those issues could help treat the disorder.

Source: Huffington Post