New Eating Disorder Discovered : Neophobia

If you think eating disorders are simply anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating you’re mistaken. Learn about a new eating disorders on the rise: Neophobia – Picky eaters.

As a leading eating disorder treatment facility, the Victorian prides itself in being at the front lines of the latest eating disorder research and treatments.

The more we understand about eating disorders and the several ways they manifest, the better we can treat our clients. Eating disorders are not simply Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating, sometimes they manifest into Exercise Bulimia where a client exercises for hours at a time to purge calories. Another new discovery is Pregorexia where a woman develops Anorexia while being pregnant. She goes on to withhold food from herself and her unborn child. These conditions are new and still being researched, but we have built relationships with specialists who can assist our client. The latest eating disorder discovery is Neophobia, a disordered in which a person is overly selective of their food due to being picky of foods texture and smell. This selectivity limits their diet to only a few foods, limiting nutrients and calories dramatically.

This may sound similar to the picky eating of some young children who resist sauces, spice and certain textures. Although Neophobia has not yet been officially recognized as a mental disorder, the American Psychiatric Association is considering its inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official compendium of emotional and mental disorders.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Duke University are studying the problem of extreme picking eating, Nancy Zucker of Duke University first became aware of the disorder when adult picky eaters came to Duke’s Center for Eating Disorders seeking help. According to Zucker, this is a real disorder. “People who are picky aren’t doing this to be stubborn.” Adults with selective eating disorder experience food differently from other people. Instead of avoiding one or two foods, they have such a limited list of acceptable food that their eating interferes with functioning in daily life. This is indicative of a mental disorder, such that it plays out in harming friendships, families and careers. Most people with this eating disorder are very embarrassed by their behavior in relation to food and do everything they can to keep it hidden. In addition to the embarrassment caused by this
disorder, doctors are concerned that a limited diet of foods that are low in nutrition can lead to long-term nutritional deficiencies and health problems that can include heart and bone problems similar to the reprecussions of anorexia and bulimia.

One  theory for the causes of Selective Eating Disorder (SED)is that it may be linked to an extreme sensitivity to the smell or texture of food that is often associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or autism.

Bob Krause, 63, of Virginia runs an online support group called PickyEatingAdults.com. Started in 2003, the site has more than 10,000 members that include picky eaters as well as concerned loved ones of the picky eaters.  Krause limits his own diet to milk, toast, crackers, popcorn, peanuts, French fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and plain milk chocolate bars.  Since childhood, Krause has avoided visiting friends at mealtime to avoid being offered food that he has an aversion to. Krause attributes the failure of two marriages to his eating disorder and says that if he could snap his fingers and change, he would. The loss of relationships is often a repercussion of eating disorders.

Nancy Zucker and other scientists at Duke University are developing treatment plans that include slowly introducing people with selective eating disorders to new foods. Treatment also focuses on helping picky eaters overcome their embarrassment about their food preferences and not letting their disorder interfere with personal and business relationships.

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