(NBC News) Most parents have encountered kids who like a food one day, then decide they hate it the next.
Those are very typical picky eaters. They are not who this story is about.
This story is about a small percentage of kids like Corey Fader, who literally only ate four or five foods growing up.
Even now as a business student at the University of Pennsylvania, Corey experiences intense anxiety when faced with consuming anything other than very specific kinds of pizza, pasta or chicken fingers.
“A lot of people say ‘Just eat it’, you know, and they make it sound simple, ‘Why don’t you just pick something up and eat it.’ But it’s like, if I could just eat it, I can promise you I would have done it by now,” he says.
Corey’s anxiety is illustrated in a new study of selective eating from Duke Medicine.
Researchers found kids who were extremely restricted in their diets were also more likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety.
“These are just sensitive kids. They see things more intently, they feel things more deeply, and that’s both in their own internal experience and the world around them,” explains Dr. Nancy Zucker of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders.
Dr. Zucker suggests the kids are sensitive not only to external world, but also what’s going into their bodies.
Corey says he’s trying multiple forms of therapy to get past his food aversions.
“My goal is to be able to get to a point where I can fit in socially, I can go out with my friends, I can go out on dates and really not have any problems with it,” he says.
Early intervention could be key, so kids can get the most effective therapies possible, and experts say the take-home message for parents is extreme picky eating is not your fault.
They do have some tips for parents of all picky eaters as well.
Number one, make family meal time a priority.
Two, don’t argue over food at the dinner table. Make it a calm environment.
Finally, practice trying new foods at other times of the day, when kids are less likely to put up a fight over food.