Home > Eating Disorder Types > Pica Disorder

Pica Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 24 Jun 2017 | 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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Im 39 weeks pregnant and I realize that each time I'm pregnant I have to eat Irish spring bar soap and ice I would go in the bathroom just to soap my hands up an licked it off over an over then go to the kitchen and eat ice until I'm on cloud 9 then I go back to my room an lie down or I will some times squeeze the dishwashing liquid in the sink and turn the facet on just to get the smell of of the dish washing liquid; I try to stop but I can't stop this behavior.
Kitty - 24-Jun-17 @ 7:53 PM
@Gappy - I can't even imagine what having such an urge would feel like as they are the most alien substances to want to eat. Can you substitute it with sherbert or Refreshers which have a similar abrasive quality?
Oll78 - 20-Jun-17 @ 12:38 PM
So at some point I had started to crave dry laundry detergent in my mouth. Not to swallow, but I just thought it would feel nice in my mouth. The craving got so ridiculous that I substituted it with baking soda and I have been chewing that for a few months now. I remember one time my mom came into my line of vision with a cup of ice chips and I had a sudden and compelling urge to chew them. It was really odd seeing both laundry detergent and baking soda in the list of things people with pica might eat. I'm going to assume I have an iron deficiency and take some iron tablets.
Gappy - 19-Jun-17 @ 3:24 PM
@RaynaC - yes, it's thought to have some health benefits and to absorb toxins. It is sold in bags, like sweets in parts of Africa.
JennaY - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:12 PM
Hi there, I am a teenager and grew up in the South. When I was young, I was exposed to something we called "chalkdirt" which is really called kaolin. It has a chalky consistency and creamy, salty taste. The milky white rock is mined in the South, baked, and a common snack among my maternal family. I used to eat it occasionally. Recently, I've been craving the taste. The craving is very strong, so strong that once I even ate some concrete powder to get the taste (I didn't swallow it.) I now small rocks and other things to subside my cravings. My mother is anemic, and I think I might be as well. I guess sucking pebbles is my way of getting a tiny amount of iron?
RaynaC - 16-Jun-17 @ 3:18 AM
Hey I'm 24 year old and I love to eat drywall I like to feel that crunch on my teeth I never swallow it I been eating drywall since I was a Lil girl I don't know what's wrong with me I always promise myself umma stop but I find myself right back eating it i crave for it I really want to stop
Bri - 10-Jun-17 @ 6:06 AM
Hy I am 20 years old I started eating soap when I was one month old...every time I try to stop but as soon as I smell it I eat it and now I am really scared cause every time whenI am sitting quite I can hear the bubbles in my stomach.
Nelz - 8-Jun-17 @ 11:24 PM
i ate cement after every 2-3 weeks but in very small amount usually in small pieces...it can cause any damage to me..???
alizay - 3-Jun-17 @ 1:43 PM
I'm 31 y old,and for about a year or so I rat wall. Um,mostly when I fell down or when I'm uber-happy... What's wrong with me?!
Nevena - 1-Jun-17 @ 2:25 PM
I eat wall, I made so many holes in my house, I love the Earthy taste andthe crunch in my mouth, I forget about everything I just enjoy it, I just can't help thinking about it, it makes me dribble, my mouths goes allwatery when I think or talk about, I been eating it for many years I just can't help it once I've eaten it I start licking the wall and the floor for the powder leftover, I hate it afterwards when I think I'm damaging my inside so Ipromise to myself I'm not going to eat it again about 20mins later I want it again, I've never told my drabout it because I feel embarrassed and I don't know how to tell him/her, I want to stop but I can't .
Esha - 13-May-17 @ 8:55 PM
Im a 26 year old and have a problem with eating clay soil for over a year now. I've tried stopping but I can't, will I have problems when I want to have kids in future, how can I stop? Please assist.
Worried - 10-May-17 @ 7:04 PM
I eat plaster off walls need help if someone see me i get uptight with them and say they are lieing i need help its neary 5yrs now
Yas - 3-May-17 @ 12:36 PM
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

Our Response:
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 go. 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
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Latest Comments
  • Kitty
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Im 39 weeks pregnant and I realize that each time I'm pregnant I have to eat Irish spring bar soap and ice I would go in the bathroom just to soap my…
    24 June 2017
  • Ocelot
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I'm trying to find solutions but the internet just tells me i need professionals haha. every day is not the same though, i go through phases…
    23 June 2017
  • Oll78
    Re: Pica Disorder
    @Gappy - I can't even imagine what having such an urge would feel like as they are the most alien substances to want to eat. Can you substitute it…
    20 June 2017
  • Gappy
    Re: Pica Disorder
    So at some point I had started to crave dry laundry detergent in my mouth. Not to swallow, but I just thought it would feel nice in my mouth. The…
    19 June 2017
  • JennaY
    Re: Pica Disorder
    @RaynaC - yes, it's thought to have some health benefits and to absorb toxins. It is sold in bags, like sweets in parts of Africa.
    16 June 2017
  • Sandra
    Re: Stomach Problems for Anorexics and Bulimics
    I haven't had a proper meal in 4 days, I haven't had dinner at all. Just like one snack each day because i was…
    16 June 2017
  • RaynaC
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Hi there, I am a teenager and grew up in the South. When I was young, I was exposed to something we called "chalkdirt" which is really called…
    16 June 2017
  • thinforever
    Re: Stomach Problems for Anorexics and Bulimics
    I have been skinny-obsessed since I was 15 ; 40 years ! I never weigh, but am probably about 98 lbs at 5'4". I…
    10 June 2017
  • Bri
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Hey I'm 24 year old and I love to eat drywall I like to feel that crunch on my teeth I never swallow it I been eating drywall since I was a Lil girl I…
    10 June 2017
  • Nelz
    Re: Pica Disorder
    Hy I am 20 years old I started eating soap when I was one month old...every time I try to stop but as soon as I smell it I eat it and now I am really…
    8 June 2017
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