Disorder Information Sheet Mental Health Information from PsychNet-UK
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Feeding Disorder

This disorder is characterized by the failure to eat adequately as reflected by weight loss or a failure to gain weight. Feeding disorders are diagnosed when the infant or young child does not eat adequately and the problem is not caused by a medical condition such as cleft palate, congenital heart disease, or chronic lung disease, or a mental condition such as any disorder that causes mental retardation. Symptoms may also include:

Poor weight gain or an actual weight loss.


Excessive crying.



Associated Features:

Developmental Disabilities.

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his diagnostic attempt has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Rumination Disorder
Mental Retardation

Cleft Palate
Congenital Heart Disease
Underlying medical condition (disorders of the child's digestive and neurological systems; for any abnormalities of the ear, nose, or throat; for problems with respiratory control; for oromotor difficulties, which relate to the movement of the mouth and tongue; and for any swallowing disorders)


The cause of such disorders is unknown, but often results from a variety of factors such as poverty, dysfunctional child-caregiver interactions, and parental misinformation. Feeding problems often occur in infant and children who are tube fed for extended periods of time due to some other illness or disability. In premature infants, the underdeveloped sphincter muscle, between the stomach and esophagus, can cause the infant to spit up frequently during feedings. Disorders of the digestive system can also cause feeding problems, and include abnormalities of the throat and esophagus that cause pain during swallowing, inhaling food into the lungs, constipation. Feeding disorders can be caused by food allergies, by difficulty with the movement of the mouth or tongue, or may be a cry for attention by a neglected child or a child with a behavioral disorder.


Treatment for feeding disorders can involve a team including gastroenterologists, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, occupational and speech therapists. Social workers may also supply assistance to provide families with support and resources for children with these types of disorders. Depending on the severity of the condition, the following measures may be taken:

Increase the number of calories and amount of fluid the infant takes in.

Correct any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

A short period of hospitalization may be required to accomplish these goals.

Childhood malnutrition can permanently stunt mental and physical development if it is severe and long-lasting. Early treatment can prevent such complications.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Identify and correct any underlying physical illnesses or psychosocial problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy appears to be the therapy most encountered in the treatment of a feeding disorder.

related books
  Childhood Feeding Disorders: Biobehavioral Assessment and Intervention
UK Support Groups
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PsychNet-UK Links
  Developmental Disorder's
Page Updated
19th July 2003