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Rumination Disorder Symptoms

The essential feature of rumination disorder is the repeated regurgitation and rechewing of food that develops in an infant or child after a period of normal functioning. Partially digested food is brought up into the mouth without apparent nausea, retching, disgust, or associated gastrointestinal disorder. The food is then either ejected from the mouth or, more frequently, chewed again and re-swallowed.

Regurgitation is a common behavior in this condition, and recurs frequently, often daily, but at least multiple times per week.

Rumination disorder is most commonly observed in infants but may be seen in older individuals, particularly those who also have an intellectual disability. Infants with the disorder display a characteristic position of straining and arching the back with the head held back, make sucking movements with their tongues, and give the impression of gaining satisfaction from the activity.

Rumination disorder is an uncommon eating disorder among the general population, but may be found more often in infants and those with intellectual disabilities. In infants, it is commonly diagnosed between ages 3 and 12 months.

In order for rumination disorder to be diagnosed, the symptoms must have last for at least one (1) month.

Symptoms of Rumination Disorder

  • The individual will repeatedly regurgitate and rechew food for a period of at least 1 month following a period of normal functioning.
  • The behavior is not due to an associated gastrointestinal or other general medical condition (e.g., esophageal reflux).
  • The behavior does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. If the symptoms occur exclusively during the course of mental retardation or a pervasive developmental disorder, they are sufficiently severe to warrant independent clinical attention.

Diagnosis & Course

Rumination disorder is most often diagnosed in childhood and among infants and usually remits spontaneously on its own, with little to no intervention or targeted treatment. In many infants and adults with intellectual developmental disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders there appears to be either self-stimulating or self-soothing properties associated with the behavior.


DSM-5 code: 307.53 (F98.21)

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2020). Rumination Disorder Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Jul 2020
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