Selective Eating Disorders

Within my practice, I have notice an increase in this disorder, particularly with children. Here I explain about the disorders.

What is Selective Eating Disorder?

Selective Eating Disorder (SED), otherwise known as Perseverative Feeding Disorder manifests itself in the sufferer by a strong fear of trying new foods, or foods with a certain texture or smell. Selective Eating Disorder normally starts in childhood, with the child being classed as a ‘picky eater’ with certain foods. While many children grow out of this by adulthood, some don’t and it then poses a problem with diet. Some people think that SED stems from an anxiety related incident involving food, for example choking on a piece of meat.

What are the symptoms of Selective Eating Disorder?

Symptoms of Selective Eating Disorder include some or all of the following:

  • Inability to eat certain foods (or food groups)
  • Exclusion of whole food groups based on texture, smell, temperature or colour
  • A diet that mainly consists of ‘safe foods’ – this may be solely pizza, cereal, chocolate, etc.
  • Feel distressed if presented with different food and the impulse to vomit

What does it feel like to suffer from Selective Eating Disorder?

Sufferers experience an intense fear of trying any new or different foods, which can lead to nutrition related problems in later life. These can include dehydration, malnutrition, growth problems, dental problems if the ‘safe foods’ are high in sugar/acidic and a diminished immune system.

As well as the above symptoms, sufferers can feel depressed and anxious in social situations and also any potential situations where they aren’t in control of what they eat. From a social point of view, people with SED can feel embarrassed eating a different type of food to everyone else and can also feel picked on and bullied if other people ask questions about it. Sufferers may also feel anxious in situations where they are away from home or a source of their particular ‘safe’ food. This may prevent them from living life to the full and they may feel trapped by their phobia.

Other important information about Selective Eating Disorder:

There has been a suggested link between SED and the following issues:

Selective eating disorders should not be confused with other eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa.


Darryl McCullagh


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