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Pica Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 28 Mar 2020 | comments*Discuss
Eating Disorder pica non-food

Pica Disorder is a relatively rare eating disorder in which an individual ingests non-food substances such as chalk, soil, paper, plaster, paint chips and more. Since it is not a common disorder, few people understand pica as it relates to the general population. Below are some basic answers to frequently asked questions about pica.

What Causes Pica?
It is not yet known what causes pica, but research indicates that it may be related to mineral deficiencies such as an iron deficiency. However, often the non-food items that an individual chooses to consume will not contain the mineral of which they are deficient, so pica is not an alternative means of obtaining nutrients.

Who Suffers from Pica?
Statistics show that pica is generally diagnosed in children and pregnant women. For children, pica is only diagnosed when eating the non-food substance is developmentally inappropriate, and therefore pica is usually diagnosed only in children over the age of two. Women who suffer from pica during pregnancy often understand that what they are eating is, at the very least, odd and possibly harmful, but the compulsion is so strong that they eat it anyway. Due to embarrassment, many women then avoid seeking treatment for pica and instead continue on in secrecy.

What Non-Food Substances are Consumed Due to Pica?
In addition to chalk, soil, paper, 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. Individuals may also be drawn to eating raw ingredients that have not yet been combined into cooked food, such as floor and raw potatoes. Usually these items are consumed in addition to an otherwise normal diet, and so do not prohibit the individual from consuming healthy food as well.

What are the Signs of Pica?
There are only two signs of pica: cravings for non-food substances and eating non-food substances. There are, however, some health risks associated with pica stemming from ingesting foreign substances, including intestinal blockage, intestinal perforation or tear, dental injury, poisoning and/or parasitic infections. Often it is only when an individual is being treated for these associated problems that pica comes to light and is diagnosed.

How is Pica Diagnosed?
Pica can remain undetected for months or even years if no major health problems occur. 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 and who do not consume these substances as part of a recognised cultural or religious practice.

How Is Pica Treated?
The type of treatment recommended for pica will depend upon the type of pica that is diagnosed. If pica stems from a nutritional deficiency then this will usually be treated with supplements to rectify the deficiency. If pica is diagnosed as a having a psychological basis, then an appropriate treatment plan for this condition will result.

How Can I Obtain Further Information on Pica?
Both medical and mental health professionals will be able to provide further information on pica. Contact a local GP or private mental health specialist to obtain more information on pica.

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Since being a toddler I've always craved bath sponges. I cut off chunks, chew them then I atcually swallow it. It has to be dry.I don't like sucking the water out of them or like eating when they are wet. I'm now 37 years old and still do this. I think in my 20s for some reason unknown to myself I seem to remember going off them for around a year. That's the only time I didn't crave or eat sponges. It's so weird. I've never told anyone, ever in my lifetime. Can't see that changing as it is strange and I can't explain if people were to ask me why I do it.
Millie - 26-Feb-20 @ 7:07 PM
I think I started eating the threads out of my collars and sleeves maybe age 15 -16? I remember at around 19 I noticed my top coat nail polish had gone hard and dry around the top and for whatever reason picked it off and ate it. That started a huge turning point, I loved drinking clear nail polish (sometimes colour if req) it’s weird but I would just dip the brush and then suck on the brush. I dread to think how much I’ve consumed, as I only stopped myself around November (4 months ago) and it’s hard I crave it a lot but we wanted a baby. The fabric eatting is still out of control, I’m surprised no one has noticed or ever said anthing I hide it well. I don’t think there’s a top, pjs, blanket, husband top, hoodies, jumper, that I haven’t taken the thread out of and eaten and then worked my way onto the fabric. I honestly dont know what to do
Cat - 22-Feb-20 @ 7:53 AM
I also have pica, it started from i was about 14 i loved the smell of shoe Polish then one day i tasted it and it was so good i was addicted to that until I was 18 years old then i moved on to craving chalk i went to the doctor and I got iron tablets I think they helped for a while then the cravings came back I'm currently craving chalk and drywall I just don't kno how to get over this but I'm not afraid to tell my friends and family they all know about it but they think that I've stopped.
Kk - 20-Feb-20 @ 1:43 PM
Well I do have epilepsy since I was 14 but have eaten baby powder, dirt/sand, and laundry detergent since I was little. But now I i cravings of baby powder, only sand not dirt, laundry detergent, and drywall. Im 19 turning 20 in August.
Jai - 15-Feb-20 @ 5:35 AM
Hi I am trying to source so PICA awareness training for 3 residential services that support people who have PICA. Is this a service you provide Regards Mandy
Mandy - 11-Feb-20 @ 4:18 PM
I think I have this as well. I always have a strong craving for sand. I used to sneak and buy packs of sand that were non toxic and eat small bits at a time. I also have a craving for fresh carpet by the air vents. I would pull, chew, spit out or swallow. I haven't caved into my cravings in about 3 years but the thoughts are constantly there and my family has no idea. I'm 17.
Loriymom - 1-Feb-20 @ 3:19 AM
since i was little ive been eating non foods it started from coins to drywall to dust. i cant stop eating dust and i constantly think about eating dry wall and i constantly want to put things in my mouth im embrassed to tell my mom about the dust and dry wall but im afraid it may be effecting my heatlh can a doctor help me?
unknown - 31-Jan-20 @ 5:59 PM
Try going to your local doctor and admitting to the problem it may seem embarrassing but they will be able to help you. It's always hard to give these things up because I can relate. I would crave plaster from the wall, clay, soil and I would do anything to get it. It can also do more harm then you think because when I went for a blood test they found lead in my blood which could have been fatal to me.
D - 30-Jan-20 @ 10:33 PM
I am just 17 I am having bad habit of eating sand ,cement, plaster, etc from cracks of wall I want to leave this habit but I eat automatically since I realize I eat cement etc I think I need help
Komal - 15-Jan-20 @ 6:23 PM
Iv been chewing anything that smells of washing powder has to be freshly washed and usually white in colour... my preference is towels/socks. I use to do this years ago and stopped, however since Iv been pregnant the cravings have got out of control and I had to start again. I also like to chew ice.
B - 14-Jan-20 @ 9:32 PM
So my 14 year old daughter is eating the styrofoam that you use to plant fake flowers. I just found out and it has been going on for a while. How do I approach her without freaking out?
Meg - 11-Jan-20 @ 8:48 PM
I like to chew on towels as well but my problem is ijust chewing I’ve been rippingthe towels up into pieces, chewing it, and spitting it out for years now. I crave it so much. i couldn’t tell you how many towels I’ve eaten. I know I need help.
Misha - 8-Jan-20 @ 8:37 PM
I think I have this disorder because I like to eat from inside thr cracks in the walls or the small stones on roads,I can eat upto 5 pencils in a day and all of this happens by itself. Even when my stomach is full and I’ll see a pencil in front of me I’ll get a craving and I’ll crack it open from my teeth and eat the whole graphite stick. If i tell this to anybody they’ll stop talking to me. Please help I’m just 17. This is from 3 years.
Pr - 30-Dec-19 @ 9:11 AM
My husband thinks I’m weird because I pick cotton strands from my clothes and chew them, then swallow them. I don’t understand why he gets upset with me and says it’s not normal. I find the chewing and eating very comforting. He thinks I have a problem - please any advice or help
Bek - 21-Dec-19 @ 11:17 PM
I've had weird cravings throughout my life, from eating glue to eating hand sanitizer, to pencil erasers, soil and even cleaning supplies, it scares and scared me beyond anyway of reasoning with it. I felt so ashamed about it that I would never come to my parents and tell them about it until one day my mom actually caught me drinking hand sanitizer and I had to give her the bad news or whatever news I have been doing it since I was a little girl on top of that I'm not sure if I was pregnant at that time but when I did start getting the craving of wanting to eat soil and or sand that happened through the ages of five 7 and then 19 so I couldn't really distinguish what it was as far as everything else it's been something or an enlightening,weird Journey because I didn't know that so many other people actually go through the same things that I went through and then I'm still going through.
Idy - 14-Dec-19 @ 1:37 PM
My sis has been eating non food substances for so long. When we tell my sister to stop she keeps on doing it
SisterNeedsIron - 28-Nov-19 @ 4:35 PM
I’m a 13 year old girl and I love to eat dry sans etc and mostly eating that weird sediment that comes from walls after the paint is chipped and it leaves a hole I scoop it and keep eating it, I’ve only found this thing after one day I decided to eat dirt for some reason
Wall - 21-Nov-19 @ 12:53 AM
I'm 38 weeks pregnant and my pica craving is plaster, dry wall, grout, bricks, dry motor! My partner accidently made a hole in the bedroom wall and part of the wall fell out. I now have it stashed by my bed for when I'm watching a film to sniff it, lick it and even chew it a little! I really don't want this due to it may be being harmful for my baby but it's like a drug I can't stay away from it.
Em - 14-Nov-19 @ 9:02 PM
I have been eating ICE ever since I know myself. From Iwas a teen. Now am 50 in December and the cravings is out of this world. Morning, noon, night, waking up in the nights just to get more and more. It can't even freeze properly and I would start eatimg away. It'sso delicious and I just love the way it slides in my throat and calms me. But at times I feel like I may be doing some damage due to the intensity. I think I need help.
Bonnie - 11-Nov-19 @ 2:52 AM
I started out craving chalk and cotton. I was able to leave the chalk alone bit I still chew cotton and then spit it out, I have been doing it since a child. I was told it was because of my iron level.
Chelle - 7-Nov-19 @ 2:48 AM
I like to chew on towels as well but my problem is worse than just chewing I’ve beencutting the towels up into pieces, chewing it, and swallowing it for years now. I crave it so much. i couldn’t tell you how many towels I’ve eaten. I know I need help.
Taty - 6-Nov-19 @ 2:51 PM
I'm 18, n I lyk eating chalks....its been 5 years now I've been eating it.....many a times I tried not to eat them n have control on myself but it seems simply satisfying to consume them.. Can I get any suggestion on this?
No one - 1-Nov-19 @ 12:37 PM
I like to eat the dry wall in my basement
Lea - 20-Oct-19 @ 12:05 AM
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 about me, I think about if I did obtain these problems, how will it affect my family? My friends? My impact on others/the world? How will the people that care about me feel? These are things to know. When my friend hears this disorder, pica he immediately stopped, knowing that his family is counting on him and he knows that he has to not make his family suffer. (he is a 15 year old by the way). So please understand this and defy the impossible and just stop eating non-food substances.
Gotchu - 13-Oct-19 @ 8:40 PM
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 things. Any advice?
Nintendhoe - 10-Oct-19 @ 7:05 PM
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 videos. I always thought the floral foam looked so tasty. Eventually I bought some and tried it. Instantly I fell in love and I’ve been eating it and taking breaks. I tried plaster yesterday, they were literally plaster sculptures that you paint. I bit a piece off and it was quite nice.
Imani - 3-Oct-19 @ 5:39 PM
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 completely normal to my tongue.I have had this problem since i was nine and i am now 18. I would like to get help but i have never told my parents.
Ezzy - 17-Sep-19 @ 11:52 AM
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 chalk and then saw a yt video of a woman eating her wall so i tried it and i didn’t like it but once i ran out of chalk and i kept eating my wall and now i cant stop i used to eat it once or twice a day in small amount but now i eat it around four times in small amounts but everyday. i am concerned for my health.
kalie - 15-Sep-19 @ 4:48 PM
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 taste like earth & wet dirt. I also love eating at constructions by my house. I love the dirt they use! It tastes good as well. Very earthy & brand new dirt taste!
Nini - 2-Sep-19 @ 9:29 AM
i eat tissue and i eat the tissue when i rinse my hands (i.e with fairy liquid and washing up powder) i’m rlly worried if it has carcinogens or anything that can cause serious damage, i do thisevery day ??????
hae soo - 5-Aug-19 @ 3:39 PM
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