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Pica Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 8 Mar 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 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
I’ve always had weird eating habits. All my notebooks never had a”dog ears” because I tore the upper right hand bit and chewed and swallowed on them. I always ate the cap and the top of my plastic pens (i think it’s referred to as gyro or gyro in England”. I used to lick my finger tips and then run it over the soil to get the larger size pebbles to chew on. It damaged the surface of the four front top and bottom so badly they were jagged and had to get them filed evenly when I took my braces off. I also like to eat my finger and toe nails. I also use to take my pointing finger, rig it into bathing soap and dig the soap out in my mouth and such and swallow it. It was a weird sensation but I loved it. I also licked my forefinger and put it in the box of powdered laundry detergent and suck on that soap until it disappeared. I’d eat quite a huge pinch of laundry detergent though, and that has some weird chemicals in it. I don’t know how I’m not dead yet
Mike - 17-Oct-18 @ 3:51 AM
I dont eat them, but i REGULARLY chew on pop tabs, or chew on the pop tab. i have no idea why i do it, everyone is aware of me doing it, and no one knows why either.
Yellow - 13-Oct-18 @ 1:21 AM
I'm eating the walls (not just the paint. Also the stoney stuff behind the paint.) I've been doing it for 2 years by now and I really am trying my best to stop, but... if I see even one slight hole or if the wall isn't completely straight then the urge just comes back. I'm only a teen and my parents do know that I'm doing it but I'm scared to seek for help by a doctor or smth like that, since I'm scared that they could actually force me into a mental hospital or smth like that. So... would anyone have an idea how to stop? (I also eat normal food btw. So - it's not just the walls which I eat. But still; I need help, and ik that but... I'm just scared.)
???.?? - 11-Aug-18 @ 3:43 PM
We know that eating wall paints is hazardous , dangerous Nd really very silly ..bt still we used to eat that ... I want to stop that ,bt I can't .. I want to know ,wht happens in my body after eating this stuff ... I hv very ambitious dreams in my life ,I want to achieve success,enjoy my life....but how can it is possible ...my worst habit of eating paint is very big barrier in my life .. I am soo weak ,thin ,etc this is bcoz of this habit ...bt how can I stop myself from eating paints ...? Plzz suggest
Shin - 24-Jun-18 @ 3:19 AM
I have had my share of experiencing, craving, eating & picking walls, paint, nail polish and glue for over 4 years and i have done some other really stupid stuff that i know is horrible and idiotic for me but i honestly cant stop doing all this bad stuff to myself ?? i have been to the doctors and they have told me that i need to be taking iron pills and eating more iron based foods but i can't stop doing it i dont how how to stop and i know its affecting me and my life and where i live.. My family knows that i had been doing this stuff and they try to help but it doesnt work... My sisters have had their share of different iron defficencies like eating ice but mine is the worst.... Whay can i do i feel like the only way i could stop or help me is by being hypnotize or something but even then i dont think that could help me... I need guidance and help please!!!!
RJ97 - 7-Jun-18 @ 4:51 PM
Hi ,I have education to eating raw rice and paper.I want to stop it but I don't know how to do that please help me...
Bim - 30-May-18 @ 6:37 AM
I have been cutting bath towels into small pieces and chewing and swallowing it for about 5 years
Tati - 26-May-18 @ 8:13 PM
I eat dirt and cigarette ashes I ate sand as a child but grew out of it by my teenage years. But may 20th 2011 I crashed my bike without a helmet and died 3 times from a traumatic brain injury they removed a palm sized portion of my skull and yada yada the point is I began eating dirt and cigarette ashes after my TBI. It's a brain injury So obviously it effected my personality and whatnot. But anyway about a year ago I started having terrible abdominal pain urethral burning and spasming painful bladder. I'm 100% convinced it's all due to my descusting dirt soft rock and cigarette ash eating. I've been bedridden for a year yet I still can't stop. I fear I am killing myself and don't understand my lack of willpower I quit 5 years of heroin addiction cold turkey and andmited myself to rehab why can't I stop eating dirt?
Beef - 7-May-18 @ 9:36 PM
I am 20 years old and I crave ice, baby powder, and even dirt although I have not tried to eat anything other than the ice I feel my craving may be getting stronger so I need help before I start a habit I may regret in the long run.!
Heart - 21-Apr-18 @ 7:42 PM
I started eating walls in my early teens and I go through phases where I can control it and don't get the urge to eat it anymore but the past two years have been horrendous! I've made big holes in numerous walls in two different places of work cause I pick at it and eat it. I've destroyed two flats from eating wall plaster and I can't begin to stop myself! I want to because it's embarrassing and people definitely know it's me but I can't. Please someone help!!
dorahallows - 16-Apr-18 @ 4:34 PM
@Kay - you really need to see a doctor about this because it is not right and it could ruin your health. Please seek some advice.
JoJO - 13-Apr-18 @ 3:37 PM
I have a problem i eat walls so much and i dont know how to controll it im only 13 and i been eating wall for 6 years. All around my house i had made very large holes in my wall but my mom dont really pay attention. And im scaried to tell her that i eat wall. I crave for wall all the time sometimes i cant get it out of my head into i go and break the wall and eat it. I looking at a piece of wall right now i wanna eat it so badly but im trying my hardest. PLEASE HELPPP !!
Kay - 13-Apr-18 @ 8:42 AM
I eat wall white putti(white cement) applied on the wall since 12 ,every time my parents use to paint it and I used to ruin it by eating. They took me to doctor, healer but I was not cured, though it is decreased in my twenties . Till now I eat it inspite of knowing its harmful.but I really cannot stop myself
Bloom - 8-Apr-18 @ 5:40 AM
I started eating sand since I was twelve and the craving stopped and now it’s bck and stronger and am 22 already, am feeling so tempted to eat it but I keep holding myself back cause once I start eating it again I really don’t know if it will stop. Is this also pica?
Shadeloony - 13-Mar-18 @ 6:22 AM
@se se I have the same problem. I keep the small dollar boxes of tide in my room and snack on it all day. I have prayed for washing powder you can swallow. They might as well male swallow safe detergent powder because the smell is irresistible and wen you find you favorite flavor of powder your hooked. It’s sweet Tandy and just feels so right.
Li li - 12-Mar-18 @ 10:20 PM
I started eating walls as a teenager after my mum told me I used to eat soil when I was a toddler. It got out of hand after my parents discovered a gaping hole in one of the rooms, they had previously warned me about a hole I'd made in the bathroom wall but I couldn't stop. I also eat paper, pencil shavings, elastic bands, and erasers. Is there any way to stop this? I'm in my late twenties now and it's an embarrassing thing to admit but I was unaware other people were having similar issues as my parents didn't think it was a real problem.
Swish - 8-Mar-18 @ 9:25 AM
@Shanny - you must have at one point. But you luckily managed to kick this very dangerous habit.
DrE - 2-Mar-18 @ 3:29 PM
I've always loved the fragrance of soap and washing powder, no matter whatever brand. When I go shopping for groceries, I always linger on in the laundry and washing aisle as I love soap so much. I've eaten all kinds of soap and washing powder and the taste feels so good. I sometimes, which I could work in a soap and laundry firm so I can smell the lovely fragrance more often throughout the day...When I was younger, I would eat washing powder whilst washing my clothes. I stopped eating it when I became pregnant as I did not want anything to happen to my baby. However, it's been 20 years since my son was born and I still love the fragrance of soap and various washing powder...Would I have pica?
Shanny - 27-Feb-18 @ 4:53 PM
@se se - OMG! No wonder your throat burns - washing powder is an abrasive and specific enzymes that help break down stains and dirt in fabrics and other potentially irritating ingredients. Yes, you will not only damage your throat and oesophagus but your stomach and bowel too. You really need to seek help to stop this addiction.
AnnaN - 27-Feb-18 @ 1:00 PM
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Latest Comments
  • StrangeAddict
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    8 March 2019
  • Wish
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    4 March 2019
  • dk99
    Re: Pica Disorder
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    5 February 2019
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    Re: Pica Disorder
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