New Eating Disorder Discovered : Neophobia

Birds Eye Photography via
Birds Eye Photography via

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


Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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