Difficult eating, often linked social phobia among students | Health Info

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By Cara Murez Journalist for Health Day

(Health day)

THURSDAY, Oct. 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Parents frustrated by their toddlers’ delicate food choices often sigh in exasperation, thinking, “They’ll be graduating from college.”

Maybe not, suggests a new study from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Some young people continue their difficult diet into adulthood, often limiting their diet to 10 foods or even less.

Such a limited diet can mean they are not getting the fiber and vegetables they need, which could be a health concern. But the study also suggests that picky eaters may also face other challenges such as social phobias, especially around diet. Social phobia is the fear of being judged by others during daily activities, often resulting in fear or embarrassment.

“If someone is a picky eater but doesn’t care what other people think of them, then they won’t avoid social situations, but if someone is a picky eater and fears ‘being judged by others for this they can start to avoid certain social situations, “said Martin Antony, professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders. He was not part of the news. research.

For the study, investigators interviewed 488 students from the Midwest.

About 40% were identified as picky eaters. And about 65% of those respondents said they ate less than 10 foods.

“We asked participants to just tell us what challenges they might have faced with difficult eating or the benefits they might see and people were all over the place in terms of what made an impact. on them, “said co-author Lauren Dial, doctoral student. student at Bowling Green State at time of study.

Dial, now an assistant professor of psychology at California State University in Fresno, said the students were especially interesting to study because these young adults can decide, perhaps for the first time in their lives, what to eat and when.

The study found that participants who identified as picky eaters had higher levels of social phobia. A difficult diet was also associated with a lower quality of life and situational distress.

“A lot of people said they had a hard time finding the foods they ate, especially when they went out to restaurants or went out to eat with friends, which could explain why there was more social phobia or why they were experiencing more social phobia, “said Dial.

“And they tend to avoid eating meals and not eating foods around other people just because they don’t like that food or if they don’t want to somehow present themselves as an eater. difficult to their friends in a social situation, she noted.

Many respondents indicated that they would eat less or not at all outside the home, according to the study.

A 19-year-old man said he would drink water half the time “because of my difficult diet,” according to the study. Another 18 year old said: “Sometimes there are awkward comments when I eat with my girlfriend and her family.” A 23-year-old woman said her parents would be frustrated by her refusal to try the foods she was served.

Some respondents said they bring their own snacks because they never know if a host will serve something they want to eat.

“When I go out to eat, it sometimes takes a while for me to decide what I want or what to say to the waitress to drop the dish,” said a 19-year-old woman.

Whether the difficult eating is entirely due to physical reasons – the feel, textures or flavors of the food – or whether it is related to a mental health disorder is up to the individual.

“It has a lot to do with the presentation of food, the way it is presented on a plate, the texture of the food, is it a consistent texture, there are competing textures,” said Dial, “but there is is also afraid of trying new foods and this could affect a difficult diet. “

Antony said there can be a variety of reasons for picky eating.

For some, health problems may lead to or require a special diet. Others may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can include fear of choking or worrying about contaminating certain foods.

Certain foods can also trigger a reaction of disgust, Antony said. “It can happen for many different reasons and different people would probably describe different causes or different contributing factors,” he said.

Antony said the link between difficult eating and social anxiety may be similar to how this type of anxiety disorder can cause some people to feel overly afraid of social or performance situations – in this case, fearing that their hands do not tremble while eating or that others do. opinion.

The impact this can have on a student’s social life depends on how much importance they place on what other people think, Antony said.

Some extremely picky eaters have an eating disorder called avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Difficult eating can be part of a spectrum, with some eating more difficult and others less, Dial said.

By learning more about difficult eating in adults, researchers said they may be able to determine the best way to intervene before the problem gets worse for some people.

SOURCES: Lauren Dial, PhD, assistant professor, psychology, California State University, Fresno; Martin Antony, PhD, professor of psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada; Journal of Nutrition and Behavior Educationr, October 7, 2021

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