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Pica Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 23 Sep 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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i’ve been eating wool like materials since i was 6.the feeling in my mouth is a satisfying feeling,when it isn’t around i’d crave it,i’ve eaten a jumper with the matching joggers , another jumper,a scarf, fluffy cushions, half of a big blanket and up to now i still pick them and eat them, growing up my mum knew about it and used to get very heated but i stated to hide from her and do it. eventually i’ll stop but for now it’s an occurring thing since i was 5/6 and now i’m 17. nobody really knows but it’s something i’m not afraid to share as i’m not alone .
sending - 18-Sep-20 @ 10:51 AM
Alongside towels, I've also been eating ice.
isabel - 9-Sep-20 @ 8:40 AM
I started eating string in 5th or 6th grade. In 7th grade I started taking pieces of towels, chewing them until they were tiny pieces of string, and then swallowing them. I'm 14 now and starting high school. I only do it sometimes, but I still get cravings often. I'm kinda worried for my health, but I don't know how to stop. No ones seems to have noticed the missing towels, as I usually take certain ones that are old and wouldn't be missed. I haven't told anyone about this.
isabel - 9-Sep-20 @ 8:39 AM
I also suffer with this. I can vaguely remember it starting when I was about 7/8 and my mom and I were in a carpet shop. I would run behind the gaps of the carpets (the carpets were propped up along the wall leaving a "crawl space" behind) and lick and try to bite the carpets while I was out of sight. The texture is what drew me, the feeling on my tongue was addictive and I needed more. I would often just get on the floor when no one was watching and lick the carpet. I don't think this went on for ages. It then resurfaced in my teen years. I became obsessed with towels. They needed to be dry for the texture. I would sit in my room sucking/chewing the towel then blow drying it, repeating until bedtime. It was taking up all of my time and I was destroying my towels. I tried to hide it from my mum but she found out. Doctors were no help. 3 or so years later I was rushed to hospital for a transfusion after a blood test revealed I was anemic. After looking at symptoms I am convinced this Pica stems from my iron imbalance. When I take tablets to correct my iron, the cravings subside. I'm still trying to figure it out. I am treating it like an addiction and have to go force myself to stop. It's extremely hard mentally and I occasionally give in. But I am so much better at controlling it now. Would also like to add that I think the acid/dyes and fabrics I ingest while chewing have weakened my teeth as I am more susceptible to cavities and my teeth break and crumble. Just stay safe everyone. Thinking about the danger I am doing to myself helps me try and curb my addiction. It's cool knowing I'm not alone!
Anna - 11-Aug-20 @ 3:20 AM
I have been eating non food since I was 2, I started with dried wall and paint. then i started eating cotton, foam and chalk. I left eating those things but soon developed a craving for threads and fabric since i was 3. this turned into an addiction and i would rip out fabric, strings and threads from my clothes,towels and carpets. i cannot stop myself and the most i could resist is for one day. whenever my parents found out the clothes they would scold me and threaten me, not like they are bad parents but they never understood this. they would ask if i had a mental problem or the reason why i do it but i could not find a reason. I tried to reach out to a pschyologist but this thing is not common in my country and they also didnt understood that At first i used to think that i was the only one with this kind of problem, but when i discovered this site i realized there are more, thankyou every one for sharing this, i really feel less alone now.
abdul ahad - 29-May-20 @ 6:31 AM
Hi I'm 33 years old and I love eating drywall I have been eating eat since I was little. I was born with a heart condition. I was in a car accident January 1 2017 andsince then my cravings and ratings have gotten out of control I moved I to this. We apartment 2 years ago and I had a seizure in one of my closets and broke the wall and drywall was exposed I have been eating it so much that the walls gone. It's such a bad craving it's worse the my craving for my pain pills. I have like a ritual that goes with it. I take down the wall and get it wet to rub off the pain and paper off of it so it just exsposes the drywall then I put it In a big bowl with cold water over it until its drenched in water andstays in the water then I brake it into bit size peiceskind of like a boulder of popcorn. Then when I eat it I eat it alone for hours when I take a bite I take a big puff of my e cigarette and chew then blow out and it has that dusty dirt taste. I just recently have had a big change I. My life my husband moved away to help take care o mother work and leave me. I'm so embarrassed I have tried to talk to my doctor but she looks at me like she thinks I. Crazy and disgusted with me. I have never craved something so bad and so much now I have to pay for the 4 by 10 walls in my apartment that's gone becuase I eat it I couldn't control this urge. Please help me I already have a hard enough life what do i do. I have tried vitamins and other things but nothing is working.
Alaskan - 16-May-20 @ 6:05 PM
Well i was looking for information. I have a 2 year old son and he cant stop from scratching my wall paint and eat it also when i visit my sister because she has a backyard to play he has to take the rocks and put it in his mouth or he starts to. Bite the cardboard and i dnt know how to help him stop.
Keila - 6-May-20 @ 8:33 AM
I've been eating carpet since I was 8 years of age I'm full grown now with 3 kids and I still do this I sometimes go to buy cuts of carpet just to pull and it eat I just can't stop
JmarieMarie - 6-May-20 @ 2:23 AM
Ive been eating cloth fabric. String by string. I really want to stop but cant
Noonie - 1-May-20 @ 4:29 PM
I been eating spongesdry ones and sheetrock sometimes I'll eat chalk but not as much as sheetrock.since I was 18 now I'm 35. It goes and comes.im really embarrassed , no one knows.
Ana - 22-Apr-20 @ 7:44 AM
For as long as I can remember I've always chewed towels. At first it started as something that is not uncommon amongst young children - I would just suck the water out of flannels and towels. But then it became worse so that I would actually rip the threads out and swallow them. It grew so bad that I would tear chunks of the fabric away and eat them which made my mum realise what I was doing when she saw the holes. She was not understanding and told me off for destroying the towels rather than trying to find out what was wrong. Ever since I've tried to hide it. I now have a bag where I keep the remains of a few towels and mainly chew the same bits, trying not to swallow any. I am 18 and I really want to stop - I'm worried about what effect this could be having internally since I've been doing it so long but I don't know how to tell anyone without feeling like a freak/ I'm being judged. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories - reading them genuinely made me feel less alone in this strange, misunderstood addiction :)
Lily - 6-Apr-20 @ 10:34 PM
For as long as I can remember I've always chewed towels. At first it started as something that is not uncommon amongst young children - I would just suck the water out of flannels and towels. But then it became worse so that I would actually rip the threads out and swallow them. It grew so bad that I would tear chunks of the fabric away and eat them which made my mum realise what I was doing when she saw the holes. She was not understanding and told me off for destroying the towels rather than trying to find out what was wrong. Ever since I've tried to hide it. I now have a bag where I keep the remains of a few towels and mainly chew the same bits, trying not to swallow any. I am 18 and I really want to stop - I'm worried about what effect this could be having internally since I've been doing it so long but I don't know how to tell anyone without feeling like a freak/ I'm being judged. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories - reading them genuinely made me feel less alone in this strange, misunderstood addiction :)
Lily - 6-Apr-20 @ 10:26 PM
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
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