Pica: What is it?

PicaThere are numerous eating disorders but one that many are not aware of is Pica; the desire to eat inedible objects. A person suffering from Pica craves objects that are not normally consumed. It is rare but also very dangerous. Cravings can range from eating from calk to cushion stuffing and hair to plaster.

The name Pica derives from the Latin, magpie a bird that is renowned for eating just about anything.

The National Library of Medicine discovered that this syndrome is more profound in children aged six and under (10-32 %). This is not to say that older children, teenagers, and adults are excluded from developing this syndrome.


Symptoms of Pica Syndrome


The main symptom of Pica is the eating of objects that are not food-related. These substances may contain harmful chemicals or bacteria which are detrimental to health. Upon consumption, these objects and substances can easily damage the gastrointestinal tract resulting in bowel problems. Other symptoms may include; concerns about weight gain/loss, irrational fears regarding food and exercise, anxiety, depression and mood swings.

Diagnosis can be tricky, and it is not often diagnosed until the person has ingested these objects for a substantial period. Early intervention can greatly reduce the severity of the eating disorder and prevent long-lasting health complaints. It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.


Treatment for Pica


Like many eating disorders, there are no laboratory tests to define the diagnosis. Generally, diagnosis is made by taking a clinical history of the patient detailing their behaviours and consumption habits. Additionally, certain physical tests are carried out to ensure that there are no deficiencies in the body that may cause the cravings and desire to eat non-food substances.

Pica syndrome may be a rare condition, but it is a serious one with potentially deadly consequences. Seeking support early on can really save a life.


If you or someone you know would like further support and information, please do contact us.