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The truth about selective eating disorder or the strong aversion around some foods

We’ve all met them – the people that will say “no” to certain foods, sometimes even to a point which made them be dubbed as “fussy”. However, have you really wondered whether these people might actually be suffering from a serious condition?

Food phobia expert, clinical hypnotherapist and chartered counseling psychologist Felix Econamikis explains that some people suffer from selective eating disorder (SED), which “is a strong aversion around foods which means even if you desperately wanted to try some appetising looking food, you would be unable to do so, or unable to swallow it”.

He continued to describe the condition, stating that “some people have a dread even at the thought of certain foods, and cannot be near them or touch them. Others can smell, touch, even take a bit but cannot swallow. Most people report gagging quite strongly at the taste or even smell of certain foods.”

SED can appear for various reasons, ranging from childhood trauma around food, disorders in which people have heightened senses around food or even a family dynamic that has reinforced issue around food. The people suffering from SED are aware of the fact that they are more than “picky eaters” and instead, suffer from a condition that makes their lives way more difficult.

The truth about selective eating disorder

Hanna Little, who has undergone treatment with Felix for SED, ate exclusively toast, plain biscuits and chips and eggs before realizing the actual influence her eating habits had on her life.

“I wasn’t getting periods as regular as other girls because of my weight and diet, when I did get them, it was agony,” she says.

“My stamina was poor, and I was always getting ill, I had to take iron tablets so that I wouldn’t feel so tired. It was when I fainted at work and lost my job that I realised I needed to change. The hardest thing was socialising; it was impossible to go to dinner with friends, or have lunch at a boyfriend’s house. Sometimes I’d find myself in the bathroom eating my lunch so no one would notice I was eating the same thing as the day before, and the day before that,” she detailed.

Hanna added that “people don’t realise that there are so many eating disorders other than anorexia or bulimia. I felt strangely relieved when I was diagnosed, there was a justification to my behaviour and relationship with food.”

She concluded that while she still has difficult days from time to time, her family has been supportive and that “I just look at my children and remember the example I want to set for them.”

While SED is indeed formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association under the name Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, it can still be very difficult to get a diagnosis, and many times it happens that people with this condition approaching their local eating disorder specialist are told that the doctors can only treat bulimia or anorexia, or that they should come back only if they lose too much wait.

Lydia Peirce