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Children who are picky eaters have higher risk for depression, social anxiety, and generalised anxiety

Posted:  Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Picky eating in children is more than just an annoying phase! Emerging research has found that children with picky eating habits (selective eating disorder) are at an increased risk of developing depression, social anxiety, and generalised anxiety.

A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, reported that picky eating habits are associated with childhood depression and anxiety. The disorder is seen in over one-fifth of 2-4 year olds of whom 18% are moderately picky and 3% are severely selective. Children who are severely selective have very few food preferences which keep them back from eating with others.

The researchers observed that these children had double the risk of showing generalised anxiety at follow-up visits. Picky eating habits are also found to negatively impact a child's health, growth, social life, and the parent-child relationship. Thus, there is a need to come up with solutions to aid both doctors and parents to tackle this issue.

Parents are often frustrated with such children regarding food, which coupled with poor nutrition, contributes to the child’s reluctance to try different foods. A few of the picky eating children have heightened senses leading to an overwhelming experience with the taste, smell and texture of some foods. Some children develop anxiety when forced to eat a food associated with a previous bad experience.

Suggesting individualised and age-appropriate treatment, Dr. Nancy Zucker, lead study author, concluded that, "It's a good way to get high-risk children into interventions, especially if the parents are asking for help."

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