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Pica Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 13 Aug 2019 | 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 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
I am 27 years old and I am addicted to chalk, blue tac, clay and drywall. Out of the four my favourite one is clay. I have been eating these things since I was 13 years old. I noticed that I had pica from when I got pregnant because I had to take iron tablets in order for my baby girl to be healthy. That was a struggle but not once did I eat chalk, blue tac, clay or drywall until I gave birth to her and stopped taking my iron tablets. After a year I started developing these cravings again. Worse thing is, i know how to stop these cravings which is to have a blood test and get iron tablets but I don’t want to! The taste of these things satisfy me and it makes me happy for example people love chocolate and claim that chocolate makes them happy well chalk, blue tac and so forth makes me happy. It’s got to a point where I can go through 12 packets of chalk within a month, blue tac I buy everyday as for clay I am nipping little chucks of it from my niece pottery vase that she made in school. I know it’s bad and it’s dangerous but I can’t help it. I got an amazon list of all my cravings and I’m willing to spend £30 on these things so now I’m thinking how am I going to hide these things from my partner and child.
Lina - 14-Jul-19 @ 2:33 AM
I'm 12 I eat drywall and I still eat normal food, I have been said I have pica my sister even guess it. My mom yells at me because We're going to die of the cold before we die of needing food. I believe everyone with Pica is no more human then people without Pica. Live your life to the fullest seek medic help and have people you can talk to that help you.
Kai - 16-Jun-19 @ 2:18 AM
I’ve only just discovered the condition ‘pica’ but I have been eating ‘non food items’ for as long as I can remember.All my life, nearly 40 years, I’ve eaten plastic, wood and paper.I find plastics the most satisfying, particularly the clear plastic wrap that covers magazines.I’ll also consume wooden tooth picks, most types of paper, wooden pencils, plastic bottle tops, erasers, bluetak, cellotape etc. I have no learning disability, I’m degree qualified and I’ve never been pregnant, so I don’t fit with the usual patient profile above.Why do I eat these things?I am uncontrollably compelled to.It’s never caused me any health issues and I’ve not had an deficiencies show up in blood tests.It doesn’t come and go.I’ve always craved theses things.
kes678 - 13-Jun-19 @ 4:10 PM
Hey my pica started when my mom brought smell good soaps ?? my favorite one just to be Irish spring the blue soap one day I was washing my hands and I loved the smell so I wondered what it tasted like so I ate it and loved it I stopped for awhile but when I got pregnant it came back .. my favorite soap now is the unscented one I can’t stop eating bar of soap I scrape them and put the pieces in my mouth sometimes my son catches me do it I don’t want him to get older and think this is ok .. I love how it makes me feel i be really stress but as soon as I put that soap in my mouth I’m good .. I don’t swallow it I just put the little pieces on my tongue then spit it out I love how it melts in my mouth so soft but I don’t swallow it I need help. I don’t know what to do at all it’s a addiction like crack I gotta have it my soaps look terrible I hope my babyfather won’t find out please give me suggestions how to stop
Niecey - 9-Jun-19 @ 5:27 PM
Maybe try eating leaves instead (spinach, kale) after all paper comes from leaves!
Yiddy - 3-Jun-19 @ 4:12 PM
I just ate 2 whole washcloths in the span of 4 days and Last night I felt I was going to throw up and today i was having trouble pooping. I’m worried that something is terribly wrong
707 - 1-Jun-19 @ 3:01 PM
I've been craving and eating talcum powder and chalk(when i was younger), for as long as I can remember. there were times when I was eating toothpaste, chalky paint (the walls in my dad's office then was the unfortunate victim), charcoal, etc. i even had preferences! i grew out of most of then except the talcum powder. I'm relieved that this isn't a "me-thing" but I don't know how to stop it.
Abena - 28-May-19 @ 11:50 AM
Ever since my sister got breast implants she brought home a sample and kept it in here room. One day i was home alone and gotcurious and started snooping around my sisters room and came upon an implant. At the start i was wondering "What is this?", as a curious 8 year old i chewed on it, 15 years later this is still a habit and i am currently working as a Doctor at a medical centre and my clients are always nagging for their breast implants samples, but i am too scared to tell them i have eaten them. Now because of this i have been experimenting on eating other weird things such as money, debit cards, glass windows, car paint and tables. Should i be dead? Please Help, i am scared.
Grima - 27-May-19 @ 3:37 AM
I eat polyester. I only ate it twice but now I’m craving it more. Are there health risks for eating this
Hanny - 24-May-19 @ 4:46 AM
I eat towels from the bathroom, i don´t know why but the taste seems good to me. I have tried stopping but when the towels are just washed i want to eat them
n - 21-May-19 @ 8:52 PM
im addicted to eating pure baking soda... I want to stop but its so good. My mom doesn't know and I only 15, I don't want to get sick, I just don't know what to do anymore. Sometimes I put it on ice and eat it. A tip I've learned for getting better though is brush your teeth with it. It's good for your teeth, and you get the taste, but you are not putting as much sodium into your body. Best of luck to all! : )
bakingsodaaddict - 7-May-19 @ 2:32 AM
I eat drywall everyday. It has to be dust though I do not like it chunky. I get big chunks out of the wall then crush in to powder. I eat tons of it, I am sure It will be harmful down the road. I was told I was severely anemic that's probably what's wrong.
shelly - 3-May-19 @ 6:54 PM
I eat Drywall, clay, chalk, perlite, and dirt. I dont have any way to feed my addiction or (craving) I'm constantly drooling when I think about it.. I dont want to eat anymore drywall bc I'm young and my mom started throwing a fit about the holes in the wall, and after eating clay and stuff other than drywall, after i eat a lot of drywall it gets this funny kind of taste.. I can't explain. But i need help I'll be able to pay but I can't get to a store if you live in Vancouver Washington. I want a big box of side walk chalk please :((
Inneed - 22-Apr-19 @ 9:39 AM
I eat foams.... i don't know y?....... i want to stop..... i need to stop
Mercee - 9-Apr-19 @ 3:28 PM
I think have pica..it started a few months ago when my neighbor built this cement wall.. And everytime it would rain it would smell so good and I would break some off and eat ..now i can't stop eating it.. Now I'm getting really scared coz I am starting to get stomach pains... And I'm afraid it is slowly making me infertile or worse .. And I love babies and I wanna have some when I grow up... I'm 16 by the way.. Please help me...
Promise - 7-Apr-19 @ 9:54 PM
I’m addicted to eating roaches and period blood clottings. I’m so ashamed of myself and I can’t atop. I get excited when my older sisters period comes because I alter collect them to such the blood out. And then sometimes I got to eat some borax. I need help immediately
Howdy - 31-Mar-19 @ 6:16 AM
When I was 3 years old there was a indent on the wall and my little curious self tried some bc I liked the smell and ever since then I’ve had an addiction to dry wall and I can’t help myself. When I was 15 I cut up peices of dry wall and a bucket of white paint into a cereal bowl and ate it like cereal. I finished it all so I helped myself to second serving and then my head had a massive throbbing in the left side. I also eat toilet paper like chips all day. I can’t help it! And now I started eating dirt and leaves with a little hint laundry detergent dipped in. Please help!
My addiction - 31-Mar-19 @ 6:11 AM
I am 17 years old and I have eaten or consumed orange bricks, cement,pop, sand and still consuming it. I m not able stop myself from eating It. It's It's like I can't live without it. I m trying very hard that I should not consume it but failing all the time . Please help. I m afraid that what will be the complications. Am I going to die? I started consuming these things when I was 3 years old and now I m 17 years old. I want to stop this cravings. But it's like a drug to me of which I m not able to escape. Please tell me what should I do?
niah - 29-Mar-19 @ 6:48 AM
I chew toilet paper and nail polish together.. I've done this for years except when I found out I was pregnant. Its addictive I try to stop but I crave it !
StrangeAddict - 8-Mar-19 @ 3:22 AM
So I have this issue of eating pencils. I chew on them until they're splintered and then I just eat the splinters. I'm chewing on a pencil as I'm writing this, and eating bits of the wood. I also eat cardboard and paper. I just can't stop, can someone tell me if this is Pica?
Wish - 4-Mar-19 @ 2:48 AM
I've been having an addiction to washing powder since I was 3, and now I'm 21. Tide and Gain taste so good, it's like I'm on a high, but my throat doesn't burn when I eat it because I put a one or two teaspoons of laundry powder inside of a Kleenex and then I eat it. I also drink tons of water so I don't suffer from dry mouth. And they I carry tissue and washing powder with me everywhere I go. If I don't eat Kleenex with the powder, then I eat the Puffs brand instead, but the off brand tissue tastes kind of sandpapery and I don't like it. I also eat the laundry powder with toilet paper if I can't find any tissues. I once had this phase where I would dip the tissue in fabric softener, but that only lasted for a few months. Sometimes if I eat it too much, my tongue loses a little bit of taste, but it always comes back. I also have eaten cigarette ashes once or twice when I was 11, but laundry powder is the only addiction I've ever had. I worry that it may give me cancer, or affect my ability to have a child, but I've always been perfectly healthy besides my dealings with iron deficiency and pica.
dk99 - 5-Feb-19 @ 11:32 PM
I eat everything. Walls, ceilings, skirting boards... my whole house has gone. I’ve got nothing left. Do I have a problem? Help
Jaggas - 4-Feb-19 @ 7:05 PM
When I was younger I use to chew on paper towels and after I would eat a cupcake I would chew on the paper it would taste delicious to me and did that for yrs until this Christmas I had a fruit cake and just had to chew on the left over wax paper and I also when I was younger I would chew on foil paper and I had one filling on my molar and made it falloff and was painful so I had to stop that and use to get tempted but would instead just make Little balls with the going and I use to crave glue and clay I love the smell of dirt sometimes I feel like eating it and I've tasted dirt when I was a kid it was good but I have stopped the last time I chewed on the fruit cake left over wax paper was this past Xmas
Chapis - 21-Jan-19 @ 7:13 AM
I been eating towel since god knows when like my mum kind of knowscause I pull the string out of the towels and chew them iv made likea hundred towels stringleds but I never swallow it I really like the texture and the taste of washed towels sometimes I put detergent or surf but just a drop to add flavour I chew it everyday like whenever I’m alone and hide it in my bra however I need to stop ASAP because sometimes my jaws hurt if I chew to much and I’m 15 so I’m growing and I wanna look pretty when I grow up but I feel like I won’t if I always chew balls of strings of towels cause I believe it changes my face structure so yea I need help
Selena - 10-Jan-19 @ 6:07 PM
I chew the paper towel cardboard holder, I don't swallow it I just chew until I can't anymore. Lately I've been having some really bad stomach pain could this be causing it?
Ruby - 30-Nov-18 @ 12:31 PM
I've been eating ashes none stop Half my pregnancy I can't stop even thou I try to avoid it I crave all day when my dude buy black milds I smoke them just to eat the ash I need answers Help please I don't want to keep putting myself in harm or my unborn Can you die from eating ashes
Jazzy - 30-Nov-18 @ 4:17 AM
I am eatingpencils lead chalks dry paint of walls soil from last 8 years but not regularly .sometimes i stoped myself from eating but suddenly i don't know what happened with me i started it again and again
Bhavna - 25-Nov-18 @ 9:28 AM
I make holes in the wall and eats the plaster that hearts does it have little hair sticking out of I love it I just can't stop eating it
aj - 29-Oct-18 @ 3:50 AM
I forgot to add that I chew on silicon glue sticks before they go through the gun and I chew on them for a very long time until they are tiny pieces and it swallo. I also chew on pieces of stray thread that I find on my clothing and I eventually swallow. It’s like I always have this constant need to be chewing on something and eventually I get bored and swallow it and then I do it all again. I’ve even done Saran Wrap, aluiminium foil, card board edges, the ring that comes apart from the seal on the plastic caps of say 500ml soda bottles or any bottle that has that ring remaining after the seal is broken from the cap.
Mike - 17-Oct-18 @ 4:00 AM
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Latest Comments
  • hae soo
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    5 August 2019
  • Kat
    Re: Eating by Texture
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    24 July 2019
  • Kelly
    Re: Eating by Texture
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    19 July 2019
  • Kelly
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I have had texture issues with foods since I can remember. I don't eat Fruits. They are mushy. I can't eat mushrooms or anything spongy. I have…
    19 July 2019
  • Roadunner
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I can't eat meat or veggies corn or peas uncooked is fine no pasta . When I try to eat a hamburger after a few bites I don't want it in my…
    17 July 2019
  • Lina
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I am 27 years old and I am addicted to chalk, blue tac, clay and drywall. Out of the four my favourite one is clay. I have been eating these things…
    14 July 2019
  • Kai
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I'm 12 I eat drywall and I still eat normal food, I have been said I have pica my sister even guess it. My mom yells at me because We're going to die…
    16 June 2019
  • kes678
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I’ve only just discovered the condition ‘pica’ but I have been eating ‘non food items’ for as long as I can remember. All my life, nearly 40 years,…
    13 June 2019
  • Flyingso
    Re: Why Does Eating Make Me Feel Sick?
    I experience something very similar to this; normally I’m a healthy eater but I will get stuck in these ‘pits’ where…
    13 June 2019
  • Niecey
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Hey my pica started when my mom brought smell good soaps ?? my favorite one just to be Irish spring the blue soap one day I was washing my hands and I…
    9 June 2019