A boy, 12, who ate nothing but half a loaf of white bread and yogurt every day for 10 years has finally tried some new foods after being diagnosed with a food phobia.
Ashton Fisher’s parents desperately tried to change his diet but he would have ‘horrendous panic attacks’ if given any other items.
There is light at the end of the tunnel amid the family’s ‘living nightmare’ after a psychologist diagnosed him with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) in July.
The schoolboy, from Norfolk, is ‘proud of himself’ after managing to try a roast dinner, crisps and ham sandwiches.
Mum Cara, 49, believes her son’s phobia stems from the reflux he had as a baby as this appears to be a common trigger with ARFID sufferers.
She said: ‘I don’t think he would be here today if we didn’t have Munch Bunch strawberry and banana yogurts and Warburtons white bread.
‘We’ve been so worried about him as he doesn’t get any of the nutrients he needs. But he physically hasn’t been able to eat anything else as he’d have horrendous panic attacks.
‘We’ve never had Christmas dinner as a family as Ashton couldn’t stand the smell.’
Ashton’s GP called him a ‘fussy eater’, while a dietician claimed he would ‘grow out of it’.
The young boy resisted help at an appointment with psychologist Felix Economakis when he was nine – but became determined to fix the problem when he started secondary school.
Cara said: ‘Until recently, Ashton has been fine because he doesn’t know any different. But his peers in secondary school have noticed he doesn’t eat and it has become awkward for him. He doesn’t want to be different.’
Speaking about their second appointment with Felix in July, Cara explained: ‘Everything made sense when Felix told us about the condition…
‘It is still early days but things are looking good as Felix has given him the confidence to try new things. He now understands that the food isn’t going to make him vomit.
‘It isn’t spoken about enough! It’s a shame that you have to pay for the service but doctors aren’t aware of ARFID. It is a psychological problem and the same as a phobia of spiders.
‘Giving a person a plate of food other than their “safe” food is like giving them a plate of maggots or fish eyes, it fills them with fear and they can’t eat it.’
Selective eating disorder specialist Felix says his job is ‘all about being able to put the client at ease once they feel understood, validated and listened to’.
He continued: ‘People’s concerns fall into typical categories, for example, what if I gag or throw up or what if I don’t like the taste of new food.
‘By having answers prepared it’s very easy to reassure them quickly by proving how gagging can be stopped or how to cope with new tastes.