Picky Eating a Sign of Depression?

2015-0804 Picky Eater

Excerpt of Article by Richard Harris | NPR (89.3 KPPC)

A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that, in extreme cases, picky eating can be associated with deeper trouble, such as depression or social anxiety.

The study followed a broad spectrum of children who had come to Duke University for routine medical care. Most kids dislike some foods (broccoli is a common villain) but the researchers counted a child as a severely picky eater if his or her food choices were so limited that it made meals at home difficult, and meals out all but impossible.

Those extreme cases were rare — just 3 percent of all kids. But, as a group, they were twice as likely as the children who weren’t picky to have a diagnosis of depression, and seven times as likely to have been diagnosed with social anxiety, according to the study.

Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders, says parents of children who are extremely finicky may find it useful to seek help, because the kids may not simply outgrow the behavior on their own. And even if they eventually do, it can be disruptive to child and family alike in the meantime.


Thanks to Nancy Zucker and the team of people who conducting the study; the journal Pediatrics for publishing the study; Richard Harris for writing the article; NPR (89.3 KPPC) for committing its resources to publishing the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible to include the picture and text in this post.


  1. I think picky eating is a symptom of sensory processing disorder also which is related to autism and childhood brain injuries. I was extremely picky eater after my two brain injuries I suffered by the time I was 6 years old. My picky eating drove my parents nuts. But my metabolism was screwed up too because of my brain injuries. I couldn’t and still can’t digest certain foods.

    1. Matt, I can understand how some people might label that “picky eating,” but I view your description as “rational eating.” Even after a brain injury your brain and body know what is good for it. Simply because you don’t like or want certain food does not make you depressed. After my brain injury, I did not want to eat broccoli. My decision had nothing to do with depression, I simply could not remember the word “broccoli” and I refused to eat anything I could not pronounce. Even today, 12 years after my brain injury, there are many foods I will not eat that other people will eat. I am not depressed because I am a picky eater.

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