Adult Selective Eating and Orthorexia: Are They Really Eating Disorders?


About 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders. 7 million of these Americans are women while the remaining 1 million are men. Doctors and researchers have identified 8 different eating disorder, but there is a possibility there could be two more they have missed. The two are adult selective eating and orthorexia. 

What Are They?

Adult Selective Eating: Adult picky eaters are just like children who are picky eaters. They limit themselves to a few select foods. Adults who are selective eaters aren’t worried about calories or body image; they just find foods outside their food range inedible. Researchers are unsure what causes the disorder. Some researchers believe that many people who are adult selective eaters haven’t grown out of childhood patterns or it’s a manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder. Other researchers believe adult selective eaters have extremely sensitive taste buds or aversions to different foods due to an unpleasant encounter during childhood.

Orthorexia:  Orthorexia is derived from Latin. It translates to “correct eating”. Although orthorexia was identified in 1997, researchers were unsure if it was something that could adversely effect someone’s health and the disorder’s nature. Like adult selective eaters, those with orthorexia are not very concerned with calories or body image. However, they tend to choose food they believe are natural, healthy and pure. Researchers believe that this disorder could be manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder or anxiety. It may also lead to anorexia.

What Do Their Diets Consist of?

Adult Selective Eating: Adult selective eaters tend to choose bland, processed foods. The foods they choose to eat are usually white or lack color. They also tend to choose foods with the same texture or taste. Common foods eaten are cheese pizza, plain pastas, chicken nuggets and  fries.

Orthorexia: As mentioned earlier, orthorexics choose foods that they believe are natural, healthy and pure. They exclude foods that are processed and artificially flavored or colored or that have been in contact with pesticides. Some may even go as far to exclude sugar, wheat, caffeine, alcohol and dairy products from their diets.

Although these newly recognized eating disorders may seem more like personal dietary choices, they can be extremely harmful to a person. Because adult selective eaters and orthorexics limit themselves to a narrow range of foods, they can suffer nutrient deficiencies. If the disorder is taken to an extreme, it could lead to anorexia. In addition to having health consequences, these disorders may lead to social isolation.

Do you think these disorders are real? Sound off.

6 thoughts on “Adult Selective Eating and Orthorexia: Are They Really Eating Disorders?

  1. I know that SED is real. I have seen my son experience this for 17 years but have never had a name for it. I’m certain that he was born with this disorder. As a baby he refused to eat many foods. The only things I could get him to eat was formula, bananas and rice cereal with cinnamon in it. I was told by the doctors that he was under weight and they would look at me like I was crazy when I told them he was very picky. The doctors have always told me that he will eat if he gets hungry enough but that has never been the case. He will go hungry before he will eat something he’s not used to. He went and spent a week with a friend during spring break and only ate bread and peanut butter the whole time. That was all that they had in their house that he liked. I also agree that smell and the look of food plays a big part in this disorder. My son only recently started to eat eggs but they have to be made a specific way, scrambled eggs look disgusting to him the eggs have to be flat like a plain omlette. Those are just a few examples of how hard this disorder is for him. Anyone who doesn’t believe that this is a true disorder has never know someone with it.

    1. That sounds really difficult. I can’t even imagine how hard is must be to have the disorder or watch someone I love go through it. Thanks for reading and sharing your story.

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