Picky Eating Linked To Anxiety In Children, But May Signal ‘A More Vivid Life Experience’

Parents for many years have been stymied over what to do, or not do, over their child’s picky eating. While most children only turn their nose up at a few types of foods, there are some that keep themselves extremely limited in their eating — preferring only two or three foods. While these behaviors were once considered a “phase” of childhood, a new study out of Duke University shows that in actuality, there seems to be a correlation between picky eating and anxiety, depression, and even ADHD, according to Forbes.

The research study included children aged 2 to 6 found that about 20 percent were picky eaters. Out of those, 3 percent had “severe selective eating,” meaning some foods repelled them enough that they could not eat with other kids. It was discovered that many of these children may have heightened awareness of sense, including increased awareness of texture, which can make certain foods difficult to chew and swallow. The study also showed that they may have a heightened sense of smell, are more likely to come from families who have difficult relations, and have mothers who experience high anxiety.

According to NPR, Nancy Zucker, who is the director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders, says parents of children who are extremely picky may find it necessary to seek help, because the kids may not outgrow the behavior on their own, as pediatricians have thought in the past. And even if they eventually do, it can be disruptive to child and family alike in the meantime, because the sharing of a meal has been shown in other studies to bring family togetherness and a sense of cohesiveness. It should not be a battleground.

Zucker said parents should not panic, just be aware that these correlations exist and become familiar with how to address them. The Inquisitr has previously reported there may be a genetic component to picky eating as well.

“They’re more sensitive to taste, to smell, to texture, to visual clues like light. They also had higher levels of anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms. But those symptoms didn’t cross the line into a formal diagnosis, which is important to stress because I really don’t want to cause panic among parents.”

In fact, she says, it could be a boon to these children to be sensitive.

“These children’s sensitivities to food mean they have a potentially richer, more vivid life experience. It is only a vulnerability if it crosses a threshold where it starts to impair them.”

A counselor can be helpful in discerning what the specific problem is and the treatment plan for it, the study shows. Not all picky eating is a sign of distress.

[Image by Getty Images]