Symptoms of Food Maintenance Syndrome
Like other eating disorders, individuals that suffer from food maintenance syndrome display certain symptoms that are often specific to the disorder itself. However, the syndrome while rare in the general population, is commonly seen in children of the foster care system. Often, the abnormal behavior towards food is due to their experience while in foster care, and the maltreatment they received. In most cases, these foster care children suffered moments of inadequate food supply.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the pattern of symptoms in which excessive eating, food acquisition and maintenance behaviors are displayed -are due primarily to acute stress, including maltreatment in care.
What are Some Symptoms of Food Maintenance Syndrome?
Because most individuals –mainly children- have experienced times where they were denied food or were fed poorly, their behavior is similar to that of a starved person. When they come into a supply of food or are eating a meal, they act as if it might be the last. Some symptoms displayed include:
- When presented with food, they will eat as much as they can, and more than necessary even if they start to feel sick. They think that they may not eat again, so they consume all they possibly can in one sitting.
- They will hoard food items and hide it away for later. They may stash it under their beds, in drawers, somewhere in their closets, or anywhere else they feel it will be secure, and safe for them to later eat.
- Some will also steal food and store it in case they have no access to any food when they become hungry. They may steal the food from stores or other homes they visit.
- Another reaction they may show is the refusal to throw away any leftover food. This can be because they think there is a chance they might starve at a later time, so they hoard all the food they can, even if it can be thrown away they prefer to keep it.
Many individuals that suffer from food maintenance syndrome may have had years of food deprivation. They develop survival like instinct, and when introduced with food, they feel it must be immediately consumed for fear of future starvation. Even in a household where they will finally have adequate amounts of food, they tend to naturally react this way. For these children to recover from the mental effects of maltreatment they experienced, they must get proper treatment.
Is There Treatment for Food Maintenance Syndrome?
Although food maintenance disorder is not recognized as a disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association, it may be diagnosed as an obsessive compulsive disorder or another eating disorder not yet specified.
The best recommended treatment for many of these children is to nurture them, and provide them with a safe and stable environment, that can provide long-term developmental care. In extreme cases of trauma, therapy from licensed professionals, and maybe the use of medications may be necessary.