Home > Diagnosing > Diagnosing Pica

Diagnosing Pica

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Pica eating Disorder non-food Items

Pica is an eating disorder in which an individual has an appetite and is drawn to eating, non-nutritive substances such as chalk, soil, paper, sand, plaster, paint chips and more. The cause of pica is unknown, but very often pica is diagnosed in children, connected to a developmental disorder or emerges during a pregnancy. In children younger than two years old eating such substances is usually explorative and is not considered a disorder, however those older than two years of age who continue to be attracted to, and consume, non-food items should be examined by a medical professional as eating such items can have a negative impact on an individual’s overall physical health.

Signs of Pica
There are only two main signs of pica, which are the craving and eating of non-food substances. In addition to chalk, soil, paper, sand, plaster, and paint chips, individuals with pica may also be drawn to and enjoy eating glue, faeces, insects, leaves, gravel, clay, laundry detergent or starch, baking soda, cigarette ashes or butts, ice, hair, soap and buttons. These eating behaviours may or may not be secretive, and usually do not prohibit the individual from consuming a relatively normal diet otherwise. In adults such as pregnant women it is often recognised that eating such substances are abnormal, but very often shame or embarrassment prohibits individuals from seeking a diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing Pica
Pica is usually only discovered when a health problem strikes, so if no major health concerns emerge then pica can remain undetected for months or even years. Very often pica is detected when an individual suffers from an intestinal blockage, intestinal perforation or tear, dental injury, poisoning and/or parasitic infection associated with eating non-food substances. Blood tests will usually be carried out during an investigation into pica to determine if a mineral deficiency or anaemia could be the cause.

Pica is diagnosed in individuals who have routinely consumed non-food substances for at least a month, for whom this behaviour is inappropriate to their developmental stage (for example, who are over two years of age) and who do not consume these substances as part of a recognised cultural or religious practice. A diagnosis of pica should only be made by a qualified medical professional.

Treating Pica
There is no recognised cure for pica, and the type of treatment recommended will depend upon the type of pica that is diagnosed. For example, if pica stems from a nutritional deficiency then this will usually be remedied with supplements. If, however, pica is diagnosed as a having a psychological basis, such as with an obsessive compulsive disorder, then treatment appropriate to this diagnosis will result. Other common methods of treating pica may also include counselling or talk therapy, family counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy, attendance at support groups, and nutritional education, counselling and planning.

Pica, an eating disorder in which an individual craves and eats non-food items, can lead to a variety of health concerns. The cause of pica remains unknown, but a diagnosis can be made after this behaviour lasts for at least one month. Treating pica is not simply about treating the eating behaviours, but the underlying motivations for these behaviours as well. For further information on pica, consult a medical or mental health professional for advice on a specific behaviour.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Lea
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I like to eat the dry wall in my basement
    20 October 2019
  • Gotchu
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Guys I understand your problem. But you need to think about it. Is eating these things worth it for your bad health? Not even that, I never think…
    13 October 2019
  • Nintendhoe
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I gotta bad problem. I eat baking soda. And Talcum powder. And laundry powder. And cocaine. I just like white powders. I like bitter things and salty…
    10 October 2019
  • Imani
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I crave chalk or dirt. Anything with an earthy taste or dry crumbly texture of chalk. I’ve become addicted to watching those floral foam crushing…
    3 October 2019
  • windy
    Re: Stomach Problems for Anorexics and Bulimics
    I have a daughter Emily who has anorexia since she was 8 she is getting severe stomach pains and has been to A…
    29 September 2019
  • Sarah
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I've never been able to eat onions or peppers and anything mushy comes right back up I can eat raw tomatoes but not cooked or canned tomatoes my…
    19 September 2019
  • Ezzy
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Errr ive only just saw this... I like to chew of towels. You know the fresh kind that have been washed and dried. I have no idea why but it tastes…
    17 September 2019
  • kalie
    Re: Pica Disorder
    my mom had pica ever since she was little, she would eat her wall and chalk. i didnt know that but one day i started craving coal, then moved on to…
    15 September 2019
  • Nini
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I’m addicted to eating these rocks my mom bought for the backyard in my garage. They are pink rocks, & some are chewable. I love the taste. The rocks…
    2 September 2019
  • Lily
    Re: The Menstrual Cycle and Eating Disorders
    I've had disordered eating and my therapist believes I have an eating disorder, I have a BMI of 15.4 but I still…
    31 August 2019