Sudden Onset of Refusal to Eat on Waking After a Nightmare in a 6-Year-Old Girl

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Bridgette is a 6-year-old girl, who presented with sudden onset of refusal to eat or drink. The only precipitating event was a nightmare the previous night. She described a dream in which her mother and maternal aunt, dressed as witches, and father and maternal uncle, appearing as bats, wanted to kill her by making her eat and drink from a cauldron. Bridgette stated, “I can't eat anymore, I'm afraid of dying.” Bridgette's eating pattern and behavior were described as previously normal. Motor, social, and language milestones were also normal. Her parents reported that she occasionally refused nonpreferred foods, and they believed that her food intake had decreased at age 4 years. She was a full-term infant without perinatal problems and breast fed until 8 months. Her medical history was significant for strabismus surgery, before 6 months. Her mental health history revealed mildly depressed mood and irritability related to teasing at school after her strabismus surgery. Her parents described her as “always looking for attention.” Her teachers reported that she had normal intelligenceand described her behavior as shy, slightly withdrawn, and distrustful. Social history revealed an only child of married parents without marital or work-related problems. Bridgette went to her maternal grandmother's home after school and during school holidays.


Her parents pleaded with her to eat, but she refused. She was evaluated at urgent care where her physical examination was described as normal. Her body mass index was above the 97th percentile (3 SD above the mean). The parents were described as fearful and despairing. Laboratory tests included a complete blood count with differential, an electroencephalogram, and a computed tomography scan, all of which were normal. Intravenous fluids were administered on the day of presentation and the following day. She continued to refuse to eat or drink, and after 2 days, she was hospitalized for nasogastric tube feeding.

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