Picky Eating Can Be a Sign of Emotional Issues in Children

Possible Correlation Between Picky Eaters and Mental Health Problems

The stereotype of the young child who doesn’t want to eat broccoli is almost as old as time itself. But if your child is particularly adamant about not eating vegetables, you might not want to merely brush it off as a phase, as picky eating may not simply be an issue of “kids being kids.” This is what was discovered in a new study in the journal Pediatrics done by researchers at Duke, who show concern for what picky eating can potentially say about a child. According to the study, picky eating — depending on the severity — can correlate with a number of different mental health afflictions, including anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder.

Severe and Moderate Picky Eaters More Likely To Have Deeper Issues

In order to find as conclusive a result as they could, researchers recruited from pediatricians and used 900 children for the study. The parents of these 900 children were then interviewed about the eating habits and mental health of their kids. What they found was that 17% of the children had picky eating on a moderate level, which is to say that they ate foods only within a range of meals they enjoyed. In addition, 3% were classified as having severe picky eating, where the range of food was so limited that even going out to eat was a struggle. Two years after the initial interviews and evaluations, another round was done. What they found was that those with severe picky eating were nearly two times more likely to display signs of depression and social anxiety, 1.7 times more likely to be exact. Those with moderate picky eating were more likely to have signs of separation anxiety and attention deficit behavior.

What This Study Means for Parents and Picky Eaters

Lead researchers of the study believe that it shows a need to give more care and awareness to the issues of picky eating – not just the anxiety problems mentioned above, but sensitivity to certain sensory aspects or disgusting tastes. One of the most important ways of recognizing that is to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a diagnosable disorder about picky eating. It’s known as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, though not all doctors are familiar with this diagnosis.


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