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Mental Health and Rumination Disorder

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How Is Rumination Disorder Diagnosed?

If symptoms of rumination are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. The doctor may use certain tests -- such as imaging studies and blood tests -- to look for and rule out possible physical causes for the vomiting, such as a gastrointestinal condition. Testing can also help the doctor evaluate how the behavior has affected the body by looking for signs of problems such as dehydration and malnutrition. However, the diagnosis is mainly established by the clinical description of signs and symptoms, and invasive or costly tests (such as examining the stomach by endoscopy) are generally not necessary or helpful in making an accurate diagnosis.

To help in the diagnosis of rumination disorder, a review of the child's eating habits may be conducted. It often is necessary for the doctor to observe an infant during and after feeding.

How Is Rumination Disorder Treated?

Treatment of rumination disorder mainly focuses on changing the child's behavior. Several approaches may be used, including:

  • Changing the child's posture during and right after eating
  • Encouraging more interaction between mother and child during feeding; giving the child more attention
  • Reducing distractions during feeding
  • Making feeding a more relaxing and pleasurable experience
  • Distracting the child when he or she begins the rumination behavior
  • Aversive conditioning, which involves placing something sour or bad-tasting on the child's tongue when he or she begins to regurgitate food

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) for the mother and/or family may be helpful to improve communication and address any negative feelings toward the child due to the behavior.

There are no medications used to treat rumination disorder.

What Complications Are Associated With Rumination Disorder?

Among the many potential complications associated with untreated rumination disorder are:

  • Malnutrition
  • Lowered resistance to infections and diseases
  • Failure to grow and thrive
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach diseases such as ulcers
  • Dehydration
  • Bad breath and tooth decay
  • Aspiration pneumonia and other respiratory problems (from vomit that is breathed into the lungs)
  • Choking
  • Death

What Is the Outlook for People With Rumination Disorder?

In most cases, infants and young children with rumination disorder will outgrow the behavior and return to eating normally. For older children, this disorder can continue for months.

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