Rumination disorder is a type of mental illness that causes sufferers to repetitively and compulsively vomit. It can be extremely dangerous and lead to a wide variety of complications if left untreated. This guide will provide you with all the information you need to know about Rumination syndrome: its symptoms, causes, complications, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
What is rumination disorder?
Rumination disorder is a mental disorder that causes people to constantly think and talk about food, often to the point where it interferes with their daily life. Rumination syndrome patients often rechew food, then spit it out or vomit it up. They may also excessively chew and spit out food without swallowing. This behavior usually starts during childhood or adolescence and can last for months or years.
Symptoms of rumination disorder
The main symptom of rumination disorder is the repeated and involuntary regurgitation of food. This may be preceded by over-eating, nervousness or eating disorders. The person with rumination disorder will typically chew their food carefully before swallowing, only to later bring it back up into their mouth. They may also excessively drink water, suck on ice chips or chew gum in order to stimulate regurgitation. Other symptoms may include weight loss, dehydration, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and malnutrition.
Causes of rumination disorder
It’s still not entirely clear what causes rumination disorder, but there are a number of possible factors. Some people may be more prone to rumination if they have a history of anxiety or depression, or if they’re particularly perfectionistic or sensitive to criticism. Rumination can also be a coping mechanism for stress or emotional pain. It allows people to regain control over their thoughts and feelings, and it can provide a sense of comfort and security.
Complications of rumination disorder
- When Rumination syndrome goes untreated, it can lead to a number of physical and psychological complications. Physical complications can include:
- Weight loss
- Gestational diabetes in pregnant women
- Psychological complications can include:
- Eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa)
- Social isolation
It’s essential to seek treatment for rumination disorder as soon as possible to help prevent these complications from developing.
Risk factors of Rumination disorder
Rumination disorder can affect anyone, but It’s the most seen in infants and children with intellectual disabilities.
Some sources suggest rumination disorder is more likely to affect females, but additional studies are needed to confirm this.
Other factors that may increase the risk of rumination disorder in both children and adults include:
- Having an acute illness
- Having a mental illness
- Experiencing a psychiatric disturbance
- Undergoing major surgery
- Undergoing a stressful experience
More research is needed to identify how these factors contribute to rumination disorder.
Diagnosis of rumination disorder
A diagnosis of Rumination syndrome is typically made by a mental health professional after ruling out any other possible causes of the symptoms. This may be done through a physical examination, interview, and diagnostic tests. There is no one specific test used to diagnose Rumination syndrome, but it can be identified by assessing the symptoms and ruling out other conditions.
Treatment of Rumination Disorder
Treatment of Rumination syndrome 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 they begin the rumination behavior
- Aversive conditioning, which involves placing something sour or bad-tasting on the child’s tongue when they start to regurgitate food
There are no FDA-approved medications to treat rumination disorder, but drugs may be used to treat associated symptoms
There are no medications used to treat rumination disorder.
Preparing for your appointment
You may start by seeing your or your child’s primary care provider. Or you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist).
Here’s some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
When you make the appointment, ask if there’s anything that needs to be done in advance, such as fasting before a specific test. Make a list of:
- Symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment
- Essential personal information, including significant stresses, recent life changes, and family medical history
- All medications, vitamins, or other supplements you or your child take, including the doses
- Questions to ask the doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you’re given.
For rumination syndrome, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
- What’s the most likely cause of these symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes?
- Are any tests needed?
- Is this likely temporary or long-lasting?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach you’re suggesting?
- Are any dietary restrictions recommended?
- Do you have any brochures or other printed material about this condition? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:
- When did the symptoms begin?
- Do symptoms occur with every meal?
- How severe are the symptoms?
- Does anything make your or your child’s symptoms better?
- Does anything seem to worsen the symptoms?