Fussy Finicky Compulsive Persnickety


image via Kakitee

image via Kakitee


It’s the dinner guest from hell.

You know the one. He’s not a vegetarian. His diet is not restricted by religion. He doesn’t have food allergies or a medical condition. He’s  just plain fussy.

We think of picky eating as a childhood phenomenon, but there are adults among us– otherwise sensible, well-adjusted men and women– who somehow never outgrew their fussiness. They are perversely choosy, banishing from their diets specific foods and entire food groups. Adult picky eaters might have given up the high chair histrionics of the toddler years, but otherwise haven’t ‘grown out of it,’ as everyone predicted.

While a typical omnivore enjoys thousands of flavors and combinations, a picky eater might tolerate a few dozen.

Meals for them can be minefields of phobic flavors and textures with no discernible logic guiding likes and dislikes: raw mushrooms but not cooked; cooked tomatoes but not raw; they gag on all dairy except for sour cream which magically makes everything taste better.

Theories abound.

Picky eaters have always puzzled clinicians. At various times over the years, picky eating has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorders, a dulled sense of taste, a childhood trauma centered around food, and the heightened perceptions of a supertaster, There is no known diagnostic category; traditional eating disorders are all organized around weight, appearance, and body image. Yet the behavior around a severely limited diet can interfere with social and professional relationships, which is a hallmark of a true psychiatric disorder.

Fussy-Finicky-Compulsive-Persnicketyin the spotlight.

Now the psychiatric community is considering recognizing Selective Eating Disorder as a medical condition that could apply to adults and children. A task force has been convened to study and categorize finicky eating in adults (known as the Food F.A.D. Study). Researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh have launched the first public registry of  picky eaters that has already attracted thousands of respondents .

Join the national registry and participate in a survey of eating preferences and habits at DukeHealth.org.

Picky Eating Adults Support(PEAS) is a large online community of fussy eaters  with chapters in the U.S. and the U.K. You’ll find information, support groups, forums, and other resources.

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