Feeding and eating disorders are characterised by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behaviour that results in the altered consumption or absorption of food and that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning.
The essential feature of Pica is the eating of one or more non-nutritive, non-food substances on a persistent basis over a period of at least 1 month that is severe enough to warrant clinical attention.
Typical substances ingested tend to vary with age and availability and might include paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, soil, chalk, talcum powder, paint, gum, metal, pebbles, charcoal, or coal, ash, clay, starch, or ice. There is typically no aversion to food in general.
The eating of non-nutritive, non-food substances can be an associated feature of other mental disorders (e.g., intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia).
Rumination disorder involves the regurgitation of food, which may be re-chewed, re-swallowed or spit out. Rumination typically occurs every day, and at every meal, usually within 30 minutes of eating.
There are no clear causes for rumination disorder, but it is understood to be subconscious behaviour, not conscious. It is known to occur in infants and people with developmental disabilities, but it can also occur in other children, adolescents and adults.
Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
An individual with Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder usually avoids food based on sensory characteristics such as its smell, appearance, or texture, or may show an apparent lack of interest in eating or food, or concern about negative consequences of eating. As a result, a person with Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder may experience significant weight loss and significant nutritional deficiency.
An individual may present with a dependence on oral nutritional supplements and a marked interference with psychosocial functioning, such as avoiding seeing friends or family at social events where food is present. Some individuals may go on to develop another eating disorder such as Anorexia nervosa or Bulimia nervosa.
Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder
A person with Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder experiences symptoms which are characteristic of a feeding and eating disorder, causing significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. They do not however meet the full criteria for any of the disorders in the feeding and eating disorders diagnostic class.
It is different to an Other Feeding or Eating Disorder diagnostic in that the clinician has chosen not to specify the reason that the criteria are not met for a specific feeding and eating disorder, and includes presentations in which there is insufficient information to make a more specific diagnosis.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has a feeding or eating disorder, it is important to seek help immediately. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. Contact your GP for a referral to a practitioner with specialised knowledge in health, nutrition and eating disorders.
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