OKLAHOMA – In many ways, Michael is like most kids his age.
He loves to bounce on the trampoline and enjoys playing video games.
But, unlike other 9-year-olds, Michael has never tasted birthday cake, cheeseburgers or chicken nuggets.
“He literally gets sick at the sight of food,” Sandra Jackson, Michael’s mother, told NewsChannel 4.
It’s beyond picky eating.
He won’t touch meat, dairy, fruits or vegetables.
“If I taste it, my stomach will start to hurt,” Michael said.
The third grader has been diagnosed with neophobia, an “extreme or irrational fear or dislike of anything new, novel or unfamiliar.”
“He gags and breathes really hard. He just doesn’t want to be around it. Sometimes, he runs and throws up,” Jackson said.
Michael’s eating disorder has gotten so bad it even disrupts holiday dinners, family meals and outings.
“Whenever someone else is eating, he has to go into another room – Christmas and Thanksgiving. You know the movie ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs?’ He can’t watch it – scared of the food. He’ll tell me ‘I’m sorry, mom. I want to eat. I don’t want to die. I want to live. I’m trying,'” Jackson said.
Michael has seen counselors, dietitians, psychiatrists – nobody has been able to help.
Dr. Amy Middleman specializes in pediatric eating disorders.
“It’s estimated that 20 percent of children have some element of picky eating to the point it interferes with function. It is common,” Middleman said. “There is absolutely hope. We treat patients with these issues all the time. And, the prognosis is terrific.”
Middleman said eating issues are strongly linked to anxiety and depression.
And, there is a relatively new diagnosis called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.
“If it has become a functional impairment, they are not eating with the family, not interacting with others because it might involve food, they might have changes in weight – up or down, that struggle they are having with food requires a team approach,” Middleman told us.
Jackson just hopes someone can help her son, so Michael can finally enjoy life’s full bounty.