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Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses

Rumination Disorder

Andrea Barkoukis, M.A., Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Rumination Disorder Children with Rumination Disorder repeatedly regurgitate and spit out or re-chew their food following eating. This disorder usually develops in infants or young children. It must last for at least one month before the diagnosis can be made. Children with Rumination Disorder do not show nausea, retching, or disgust associated with their rumination behavior, and do not have associated gastrointestinal problems that can account for the behavior. Symptoms usually begin between 3 and 12 months of age, and then often remit spontaneously (particularly in infants) after a period of time.

Rumination Disorder is uncommon, and seems to occur more often in males than in females.

Diagnosis of Rumination Disorder

child eatingChildren suspected of having Rumination Disorder should first be seen by a pediatrician to determine whether there are any physical causes of regurgitation. A medical exam can also determine whether children are suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and/or nutrient deficiencies. Next, an environmental assessment will typically be conducted in order to determine whether family relationship problems, a lack of stimulation, and/or specific consequences (obtaining attention from caregivers) are linked to the behavior.

Treatment of Rumination Disorder

Strategies for the treatment of Rumination Disorder are similar in concept to treatments for Pica. The centerpiece of treatment is a comprehensive behavioral modification plan (based on learning principles) which is designed to promote normal eating behavior and to discourage ruminative behavior. Parents may be taught parenting techniques which aim to provide increased attention, interaction, and stimulation for affected children in support of these behavior modification goals. They may also be encouraged to consult with a nutritionist. Behavior modification plans designed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Rumination Disorder symptoms need to be applied consistently across all environments that children encounter in order for best results to occur. Children who are in serious-life threatening danger due to their condition will, of course, need to be hospitalized until their condition stabilizes.

 

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