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.
I have been eating tide detergent (powder) for years. I crave it and I crave the bleach tablets at the pool I'm borderline anemic and I've tried getting pregnant but it just won't work. Any advice for how I can stop craving it
Beeka - 28-Apr-17 @ 7:18 AM
I am 21 year old. I have been eating wall paint since I was 15. Countless time I have tried to stop it but I just can't.
I really need help. I have started hating myself? for this... Even my parents are fed up with me. Please help me.
Ishu - 23-Apr-17 @ 3:41 PM
I eat tissue paper constantly. I've got an endoscopy next week and I'm wondering if anyone knows whether it will show up or not?
a - 10-Apr-17 @ 1:12 AM
@niccah - eating paper can't block your fallopian tubes - but it can affect your health in other ways. Have you considered asking for some CBT counselling from your GP as this may help. Jules.
JGD^& - 4-Apr-17 @ 12:35 PM
Hi i am from south africa, and i have been eating paper for 4 years now, i tried couple of times to stop i just cant, even went to a GP just cant seem to stop. I crave it mostly when i am stressed. Sometimes after a meal. This is disturbing and really scares me because i want to have kids in future but what if these paper i consume blocks my fallopian tubes or something. I am clueless about science, but fact that i swallow it(paper) is very scary. So please HELP ME!
niccah - 4-Apr-17 @ 1:49 AM
I have started to bite and chew on bar soaps and I brush my teeth with head and shoulders I've been doing this for 2 monthsnow. I didn't realized I had been doing this often until recently. I think about biting bars of soap constantly. Even my parents have noticed the bite marks in my soap they just think it's a weird thing I'm doing but I haven't told then that I crave soap constantly. It's come to a point were even though my tongue feels like it hurts I still crave it. I am not pregnant or anemic that I know of. I feel like I need advise or help in some way on what I should do.
Sweet-sayda - 7-Mar-17 @ 9:56 AM
I eat wall sometimes I chew on my fresh clean dry towels shirts and bed sheets ive been doing so for many years now I don't know what to do to stop as soon as I smell fresh clean linin and washing powder or liquid I crave :(
Kate - 25-Feb-17 @ 5:13 PM
I (31years)have been eating soap for four years . Now I am pregnant so suggest me what should I do!!!!????
Neel - 14-Feb-17 @ 4:58 PM
I Have been eating palster of paris for 2 yrs. My parents are fedup of i eating pop. plzz help me i want to leave eating it...plzz help...
Sharu - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:02 PM
I am 18yrs old and I have been eating sand for over 3 yrs now.I hav been caught by a few people but I can't just withstand eating it... I crave for it everyday n I dont eat most tymz cos I fill up my stomach with sand....I want to stop it bcos iknw it is dangerous to my health but I dnt know how to...plz I need help and answers ....I still eat thm and I will go out at night whr no one can see mi and go from street to street to pack cups of sand into a big nylon that ll sustain me for a month or more ....plz I am getting scared.it is gettin out of hand.I cnt think nomally. all I see in my thoughtz are just sand which makes mi crave further. thanks...
baby princess - 31-Dec-16 @ 12:37 PM
I've been eating Irish Spring (Original) for about 5 or 6 years now. It's to the point where I can eat a personal sized bar in less than a week. I try to minimize my sudsy snacks, but when I go weeks with out it, I can feel myself craving it, from the sensation that it gives my tongue and the relaxation I get from eating it.... Even the smell of it makes my mouth water. I'm currently avoiding all bars of soap, but I know if I were to go into Walmart today, If didn't talk myself down, I'd grab another 2 pack. Can my weird addiction effect my ph or flora ?
Pocahontas - 29-Dec-16 @ 4:43 PM
sausage- Your Question:
Hi I'm from south Africa and I chew toilet paper I started chewing tp two years ago and now I'm 14 years old I haven't really told anyone but I have been caught several times now I'm concerned about my health and I want to stop but I don't know how.I always think and crave about it I like the feeling in my mouth and the smell.well I don't swallow I chew spit it out and rinse my mouth cause it may affect my health I guess I really need help cause I don't wanna live like this
As with all the advice we can give on this site, it really is about speaking to your GP and asking for help in order to beat your craving. The fact you are not swallowing will affect your health less than if you did. However, it is still advisable to get checked out.
EatingDisorderExpert - 22-Dec-16 @ 10:36 AM
hi I'm from south Africa and I chew toilet paper I started chewing tp two years ago and now I'm 14 years old I haven't really told anyone but I have been caught several times now I'm concerned about my health and I want to stop but I don't know how......I always think and crave about it I like the feeling in my mouth and the smell.....well i don't swallow I chew spit it out and rinse my mouth cause it may affect my health I guess I really need help cause I don't wanna live like this
sausage - 21-Dec-16 @ 4:29 PM
suffering from pica ... I've been eating raw rice.. mostly i wash it before consuming.. but i really want to stop my iron level is low. and i am working on that too.. but still the cravings won't h
what should i do?!
katy - 12-Dec-16 @ 8:09 PM
Hey, I am 16 years old and my family and me live in a brick apartment complex I often "go outside to talk on the phone" or take the trash out and even "clean my car out" just to go out and scrap parts of brick off the side of wall and chew and eat them. I do this often but don't won't to be judged by anyone!!
Kay - 19-Nov-16 @ 3:18 AM
Fifteen years ago I stared eating paper and I can't seem to stop. As I write today it's my day off and I've eaten so much paper I am sick in the stomach . I've had my iron level check way below normal, got Iron via an IV plus pills.it didn't stop it.I'm embarrassed by this problem, I've even eaten my kids school work, their handout etc. If the paper is the right texture I eat myself sick. I worry about the effect on my health.Have to stop need to stop ????????
Earth Angel - 16-Nov-16 @ 8:04 PM
I'm 23 here from South africa,and have been eating rocks and soil for 13 years. I can't tell you how many problems I've encountered since. I've had throat infections twice. Even going to the loo is quite hard. It is hard to stop and I can't tell anyone about it. I've tried stopping SO many times but I crave it so badly. I still eat it but I spit it out and rinse my mouth.
Queen Kay - 27-Oct-16 @ 4:18 PM
So i havent, to my knowledge, eaten any, but i often have dreams of eating broken up bits of plastic.Flat pieces.I usually end up feeling nauseous and it will last fpr most of the day after i wake up.I sometimes look at plastic and start craving in and simultaneously feel nauseous.I dont ever want to eat it but it does cause a significant amount of confusion.Any ideas on why this might be the case or what it might indicate?
Shockrates - 16-Sep-16 @ 10:26 AM
Lewinsky- Your Question:
I've been eating soap foam for years!.it something that I eat everyday and the longest I've gone without it is two weeks. I crave it so so much whenever I see something foamy I automatically crave for some soap foam. I have a bottle of soap water in my room where I shake it to create the foam. I then sqeeze the foam out and just eat it. I personally don't see anything wrong with it but I do get worried at times as to how it might be affecting me. And am kind of embarrassed to go the GP about it aswell. No one in my family knows about it or friends I've kept it a secret for years. But I would love to get some advice about it??
Nausea, intestinal upset, vomiting and diarrhea are the most common effects of soap ingestion. Soap is minimally toxic to your system i.e let's face it, eating soap is not good for you and if you can bring yourself to visit your GP it will help. I shouldn't feel self-conscious about seeing your doctor as Pica is in not an uncommon disorder, but a disorder it is.
EatingDisorderExpert - 13-Sep-16 @ 2:07 PM
I've been eating soap foam for years! ...it something that I eat everyday and the longest I've gone without it is two weeks. I crave it so so much whenever I see something foamy I automatically crave for some soap foam... I have a bottle of soap water in my room where I shake it to create the foam. I then sqeeze the foam out and just eat it ... I personally don't see anything wrong with it but I do get worried at times as to how it might be affecting me. And am kind of embarrassed to go the GP about it aswell. No one in my family knows about it or friends I've kept it a secret for years.. But I would love to get some advice about it??
Lewinsky - 13-Sep-16 @ 4:04 AM
I am currently eight months pregnant and started about a month ago to eat paper. I like this certain kind of paper because I don't taste any harsh ink on it. I eat about two pieces a day. Is this harming my unborn baby?? I'm so worried but can't stop, someone help me please.
Mich - 19-Aug-16 @ 7:13 PM
Hi I'm 25 years old but from the ages of around 14-16 I ate plasterboard/drywall in my moms house. I ate away leaving a hole in a cupboard approx 8ft tall & 2ft wide. I patched the wall up 1 day to stop myself eating more & slowly stopped thinking about it when I moved to university. Now in the recent 3 or so months I've been thinking amout chalk & drywall excessively & have started picking at a hole in my moms house again. Is this harmful to me? And other than sorting my anaemia out is there anything I can do to relieve this for good?
Lazybones - 13-Aug-16 @ 5:58 PM
I started eating small pinches of sand and tiny rocks and I would mix plaster of paris together and wait until it gets hard and dry and I would nibble small pieces and suck on them every now and then.. I have not eaten any rocks or sand in about a month now, but now I'm into making plaster of paris , really thin pieces like paper just to feel them crumble and Crack on my tongue... but I do spit it out and rinse my mouth afterwords.. I swallow very very little... could this cause future problems.. I sm pregnant.. only been doing it for 9 months... but not every day
When I go to the bathroom I go often and it is fluffy...?
Could this be just a pregnancy thing
My first pregnancy I craved the smell of Scrubbing bubbles cleaner and smelling the Bounce dryer sheets... now I'm just craving things to chew on
chas - 11-Aug-16 @ 8:50 PM
I m eatingwall from 9th standard nd my 10th also over now is it harmful for body..?
shriya - 4-Aug-16 @ 6:20 PM
I'm 33 with3 kids. When pregnant I craved coal and did eat some but my youngest is now 15 months and 2 months ago I couldn't control the craving anymore even though I'm not pregnant, im eating nearly 2 pieces a day and have actually bought a bag of coal and hide it in my house from my family!
I think about it all the time, soon as I get out work I need to chew it all the way home in the car!
Could this cause me health problems and what?
Is it worse than eating rocks or drywall????
Maddie - 13-Jul-16 @ 3:30 PM
Ive eaten talcum powder and chalk since I was young but then I started to move on to scratching the paint off walls and eating it and now ive converted myself to braking bits off the wall and eating the plaster too, I'm worried it'll make me sick but I can't seem to stop myself but I'm too embaraced to say anything because I think my parents will be disappointed in me but now I'm even more worried, I didn't know it was a disorder and other people suffered from it too. I feel really stupid for doing it. Any advice that you'd have would be great...
... - 11-Jul-16 @ 7:48 PM
im not sure when it started but I also have a craving for my wall, I've made a huge hole and my parents are mad and trying to figure out how it happened, I'm too ashamed to tell them, thinking about what they will think of me, is there a way I can't stop my craving? I want to talk to my GP about it but I'm scared she might report it to my mum. I don't want to have this craving or die from it, I'm really scared please help me!!
--- - 7-Jul-16 @ 8:32 PM
I am 24 years old recently married , I have this habit of eating wall paint chips n plaster of the walls
I need to stop this habit and also we plan to start our family soon , what effect will eating al this have on my pregnancy? Please help
Sahani - 28-Jun-16 @ 1:19 PM
I have 3 year old twins. The boy twin has started to eat the poster off the corner of the wall after a truck was thrown at it and some fell off. No matter how many time we fill the hole in, he keeps going back to eat and eating it... And has now started chewing his way all down the wall. His has been going on for about 4 weeks now. Any ideas????
Shellz - 19-Jun-16 @ 1:34 PM
I was eating drywall n soil for 5 years but still i quit this habit since 4 years. Because of pica habit i lost my weight,, which vitamins n minerals i should take n how to gain weight again?