Home > Eating Disorder Types > Pica Disorder

Pica Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 15 Jan 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
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
I have been eating ICE ever since I know myself. From Iwas a teen. Now am 50 in December and the cravings is out of this world. Morning, noon, night, waking up in the nights just to get more and more. It can't even freeze properly and I would start eatimg away. It'sso delicious and I just love the way it slides in my throat and calms me. But at times I feel like I may be doing some damage due to the intensity. I think I need help.
Bonnie - 11-Nov-19 @ 2:52 AM
I started out craving chalk and cotton. I was able to leave the chalk alone bit I still chew cotton and then spit it out, I have been doing it since a child. I was told it was because of my iron level.
Chelle - 7-Nov-19 @ 2:48 AM
I like to chew on towels as well but my problem is worse than just chewing I’ve beencutting the towels up into pieces, chewing it, and swallowing it for years now. I crave it so much. i couldn’t tell you how many towels I’ve eaten. I know I need help.
Taty - 6-Nov-19 @ 2:51 PM
I'm 18, n I lyk eating chalks....its been 5 years now I've been eating it.....many a times I tried not to eat them n have control on myself but it seems simply satisfying to consume them.. Can I get any suggestion on this?
No one - 1-Nov-19 @ 12:37 PM
I like to eat the dry wall in my basement
Lea - 20-Oct-19 @ 12:05 AM
Guys I understand your problem. But you need to think about it. Is eating these things worth it for your bad health? Not even that, I never think about me, I think about if I did obtain these problems, how will it affect my family? My friends? My impact on others/the world? How will the people that care about me feel? These are things to know. When my friend hears this disorder, pica he immediately stopped, knowing that his family is counting on him and he knows that he has to not make his family suffer. (he is a 15 year old by the way). So please understand this and defy the impossible and just stop eating non-food substances.
Gotchu - 13-Oct-19 @ 8:40 PM
I gotta bad problem. I eat baking soda. And Talcum powder. And laundry powder. And cocaine. I just like white powders. I like bitter things and salty things. Any advice?
Nintendhoe - 10-Oct-19 @ 7:05 PM
I crave chalk or dirt. Anything with an earthy taste or dry crumbly texture of chalk. I’ve become addicted to watching those floral foam crushing videos. I always thought the floral foam looked so tasty. Eventually I bought some and tried it. Instantly I fell in love and I’ve been eating it and taking breaks. I tried plaster yesterday, they were literally plaster sculptures that you paint. I bit a piece off and it was quite nice.
Imani - 3-Oct-19 @ 5:39 PM
Errr ive only just saw this... I like to chew of towels. You know the fresh kind that have been washed and dried. I have no idea why but it tastes completely normal to my tongue.I have had this problem since i was nine and i am now 18. I would like to get help but i have never told my parents.
Ezzy - 17-Sep-19 @ 11:52 AM
my mom had pica ever since she was little, she would eat her wall and chalk. i didnt know that but one day i started craving coal, then moved on to chalk and then saw a yt video of a woman eating her wall so i tried it and i didn’t like it but once i ran out of chalk and i kept eating my wall and now i cant stop i used to eat it once or twice a day in small amount but now i eat it around four times in small amounts but everyday. i am concerned for my health.
kalie - 15-Sep-19 @ 4:48 PM
I’m addicted to eating these rocks my mom bought for the backyard in my garage. They are pink rocks, & some are chewable. I love the taste. The rocks taste like earth & wet dirt. I also love eating at constructions by my house. I love the dirt they use! It tastes good as well. Very earthy & brand new dirt taste!
Nini - 2-Sep-19 @ 9:29 AM
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
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Komal
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    15 January 2020
  • Elle
    Re: Eating by Texture
    The texture of onions and peppers makes me sick I hate it I don't know what to do
    12 January 2020
  • Meg
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    11 January 2020
  • Misha
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I like to chew on towels as well but my problem is i just chewing I’ve been ripping the towels up into pieces, chewing it, and spitting it out for…
    8 January 2020
  • asia
    Re: Stomach Problems for Anorexics and Bulimics
    i have been struggling with bulimia for about 5-6 months now. i was regular. i used to b/p several times a day…
    29 December 2019
  • Emxay
    Re: The Menstrual Cycle and Eating Disorders
    I have anorexia. Does getting my period back mean that I'm back to a healthy weight? Or can I still get it when I'm…
    29 December 2019
  • Relaxoroxo
    Re: Why Does Eating Make Me Feel Sick?
    @ DarthPikachu I’m struggling with the same thing ! I was pregnant and was constantly nauseous and after I had my baby, I…
    26 December 2019
  • Bek
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    21 December 2019
  • Idy
    Re: Pica Disorder
    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…
    14 December 2019
  • Kat
    Re: Eating by Texture
    To me I can't handle squishy foods and I don't like mixing my foods. One of my biggest problems is orange juice, and peaches in smoothies. When…
    13 December 2019