Selective Eating Disorder

Facts About Selective Eating Disorder

Many parents might think that their children have a form of selective eating disorder. The condition, say some experts, makes it difficult or impossible for afflicted children and adults to eat certain foods. Some will avoid fruits or vegetables, while other will only be able to eat foods of a specific brand.

It is not difficult to see why some would be skeptical of such a disorder. While many children sufferers tend to shun vegetables, it is far less common for them to refuse to eat chips, soda or candy. Also, because selective eating disorder has only been recognized fairly recently, many think that it just a severe form of a child refusing to eat foods that they do not like. In other words, it is just stubbornness.

Some adults, however, also have selective eating disorder. Usually, those thought to have the condition have a very short list of acceptable foods and they will refuse to eat anything else.  The condition tends to be more prominent in children who suffer from autism.

Some feel that selective eating disorder is just a phase, and for some that turns out to be true. Others, however, never learn to eat normally on their own. Some are able to find help through therapy, while others continue their narrow way of eating for their entire lives.

A term was coined to discuss people who have a fear of trying new foods. The term is neophobia, and most who have selective eating disorder are often also be diagnosed with neophobia.  While some tend to lump food related disorders together, it is important NOT to do that.

Some eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia are rooted in body image. Selective eating disorder is not. Instead it is all about the food.

Whether or not you believe that this is a genuine disorder or not, one thing is certain: Eating only a few foods and the complete avoidance of fruits and vegetables is unhealthy.  It can also make it nearly impossible to function normally in certain social situations.

Some parents decide to withhold the safe foods. They are convinced that when the child gets hungry enough, he will happily eat what is put in front of him. While this works sometimes as cases vary in severity and some children truly are just being picky, other times it does not.

Once the parent realizes that their child really is willing to go without food they begin to seek treatment. The only treatment involves counseling.


First, the counselor will try to determine the severity of the selective eating disorder. If he can identify any root causes, he will try to work through those, but often there are none.

As the therapy continues, new foods will be introduced to the child in a non-threatening way. The ultimate goal is that, over time, the patient will begin eating normally.  At the very least, the counselor will try to expand the list of acceptable foods until it includes items from all of the necessary food groups.

Selective eating disorder in all of its forms can be at best annoying and at worst dangerous. If your child is displaying symptoms of this condition, talk to your doctor to see if treatment would be the best choice.