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Pica Disorder

What is Pica Disorder?

Pica Disorder is considered to be a type of Eating Disorder in which an individual has a persistent habit of eating non-food substances such as dirt, hair or pain that do not have a nutritional value for the individual. Additionally, it is believed that it affects between 4 to 26% of an institutionalized population and 1 in 5 children. In order for an individual to be diagnosed with Pica Disorder, the persistent eating of items that are not considered food, should have continued for at least one month. Furthermore, such disorder tends to develop at young age and it also tends to be more common in children.

What are the symptoms of Pica Disorder?

  • Craving inedible items
  • Iron deficiency
  • Zinc, magnesium and copper deficiency
  • Individuals have the tendency to put objects in their mouth
  • Individuals are constantly on the lookout for objects that they can eat
  • Individuals may have a hard time telling apart whether something is edible or not
  • Digestive distress
  • Constipation
  • Ulcerations
  • Nutrient defense
  • Bowl blockages

What causes Pica Disorder?

Although there is not one known cause, there are risk factors that are considered to influence the development of such disorder.

What are some risk factors that may trigger Pica Disorder?

  • An individual having other mental health disorders such as an Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Schizophrenia
  • Iron deficiency or malnutrition
  • Neglect
  • Lack of supervision
  • Pregnancy

What complications can Pica Disorder cause in an individual?

  • Some items (i.e. paint chips) can have toxic substances (i.e. lead) that can lead to poisoning, which in turn can increase individuals prevalence rate of developing learning disabilities and brain damage
  • Eating non-food objects can interfere with an individual eating healthy food
  • Some objects can cause constipation and others may cause tears in the lining of the esophagus or in the intestines
  • Co-existing developmental disabilities can cause difficulties in treatment

How is Pica Disorder treated?

  • Iron supplementation
  • Behavioral treatment

How can I help someone who has such disorder?

  • Take your time in understanding the eating disorder
  • Be open & truthful with the person
  • Be firm, but gentle
  • Educate yourself on the disorder, ask questions
  • If an individual is trusting you with such personal information, stay truthful to it