Is Picky Eating in Children Linked To Psychological Problems?

Topic Overview

Picky Eating in Children is a topic which is much talked about. This is because Picky Eating in Children is a cause of big headache for many families. It changes a good family dinner into a virtual battlefield. Picky Eating in Children is defined as a child who likes a specific food like noodles or chicken nuggets and eats nothing other than this day in and day out whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Many parents think that Picky Eating in Children is something that children will outgrow as they move towards adolescence. This may or may not occur. There have been children who have outgrown their problem of picky eating as they grow but there are also cases where this problem persists well into adulthood [1].

A child is said to be a picky eater when he or she is averse to eating any food or eats only a specific food product, like noodles or pasta. They eat their favorite food day in and day out, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If they are given anything else that the food they like then they may get angry or upset. This is both at home or in a social gathering, which creates an embarrassing situation for the parents. Why do some children have problems with eating while other do not is much debated topic [1].

While some experts believe that it is nothing but a behavioral issue, there are some who believe that it indicates an underlying psychological problem and should be evaluated. This article highlights whether there is a link between Picky Eating in Children and underlying psychological disorders [1].

Is Picky Eating in Children Linked To Psychological Problems?

Studies suggest that there is a link between Picky Eating in Children and underlying psychological disorders. A study was conducted at Duke University in North Carolina. The researchers during the study concluded that both moderate and severe forms of picky eating in children had a direct link to psychological problems, namely anxiety, depression, and even attention deficit disorder. These findings have been published in Pediatrics, a well-known journal. However, there are many experts who are of the opinion that Picky Eating in Children is a normal process in the growth and development of a child even though studies show otherwise [2].

To come to a conclusion as to the association of Picky Eating in Children with psychological problem, the researchers analyzed data of a group of 900 children between the age of 12 and 20. This involved detailed interviews with the caregivers and parents of the children regarding the eating habits, the environment at home, and other symptoms that the child may be displaying. The main aim of the researchers was to find out whether picky eating in any way was a predictor of psychological problem in children [2].

The team lead of the research group mentions that the children selected for the study was selective eaters to such a degree that it began to create problems for their parents and caregivers alike. He also mentions that picky eating can affect the overall growth and development of the child. The relationship between the child and the parent also takes a hit and the child becomes socially withdrawn.

It has also been observed that 20% of children between the age of 3 and 5 are Picky Eaters. This raises the question as to when to consider Picky Eating a problem which needs evaluation and counseling. The answer to this is the children that need counseling are not just common picky eaters who change their food choices every week or so. These children are averse to just any food and refuse to eat practically everything and may be stuck with just one food item [2].

The data from the study also suggests that children who are picky or selective eaters have gone through some sort of physical or emotional trauma. This makes it vitally important for both physicians and psychologist to recognize the severity of picky eating and whether the child has had any other psychological issues that the parents might have noticed which may indicate an underlying psychological problem. This will help them come to a conclusion as to how to treat the child [2].

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that children with severe levels of picky eating were twice likely to have psychological problem than normal children. These children were more likely to develop social and generalized anxiety and depression with observable symptoms of these conditions. The researchers also came to a conclusion that parent-child conflict is not a solution to the problem and in fact may worsen the condition. This calls for more novel ways to address the problem for both parents and clinicians [2].

In some cases, children become selective with foods due to previous bad experience with certain food products like nausea, upset stomach, or stomach pain which makes them averse to foods. The researchers have concluded that Picky Eating in Children causing anxiety and other psychological disorders should be diagnosed as restrictive Food Intake Disorders and this has been included in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now [2].

In conclusion, there has been a clear link established between Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and underlying psychological disorders. Researchers from Duke University, North Carolina, came to the conclusion that children with severe form of picky eating are twice more likely to have underlying psychological disorder than normal people. This necessitates Picky eating to be taken seriously by caregivers and parents and the child should be taken to a counselor or a psychologist to address the issue [1, 2].

The researchers concluded and have been successful in Picky Eating in Children due to underlying psychological disorders to be included as a mental disorder in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [1, 2].

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