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Psychology Explains the Symptoms and Causes of Pica


Have you ever seen someone eat strange things like dirt, coffee grounds, chalk, hair, or even paper? These cravings are certainly strange, but they stem from a mental health disorder called bites. When a person craves substances with little or no nutritional value, this ailment could be the cause.

Do you remember a few years ago when The Learning Channel did a reality show called My strange addiction? While it seemed a bit outlandish to see people eating hair and baby powder, the show was based on an actual medical condition. Viewers squirmed and felt like purging themselves as they watched these people eat substances that are not fit for human consumption.

What drives people with this strange eating disorder? Is it dangerous to eat things like paper and deodorant? This fascinating but unusual mental health problem is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, which is based on anxiety. National Geographic He did a study in Madagascar to see how prevalent this condition was among the genders.

Surprisingly, more than 63 percent of the male participants admitted to eating things with no nutritional value. A condition that is believed to affect boys and women now shows an incredible presence in the male community. The 760 men who participated claimed that they had eaten charcoal, sand, and even chicken feces.

What is Pica?

Pica appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a psychological disorder. People with this condition will consume things like:










• Drywall


• Human feces



• Baby powder

These are just some of the things that people consume, but they can get weirder and stranger with each addiction. Therefore, this list is by no means complete. This condition is as unique as the person who suffers from it, and each case is diverse.

Make a diagnosis

Before a mental health provider can diagnose this condition, the person must consume the inedible substances for at least 30 days beforehand. Additionally, the materials should be considered inappropriate for consumption and should not be part of any religious or cultural practice. Another critical factor in diagnosing this disorder is severity.

An individual must have such a desire to consume these things that it warrants medical attention from a physical or psychological point of view. A child who nibbles on a bar of soap in the bathtub will sometimes not justify such a diagnosis. It is normal for younger children to experiment with various tastes, especially when playing outside, depending on Children’s health.

Do you remember tasting dirt or grass when you were playing outside as a child? The difference between these instances and a mental health disorder is that the child is curious but usually does not continue to eat the substance for 30 days. While anxiety seems to be a big part of this ailment, there are other problems related to it.

Mental and emotional health disorders are almost always at the core. One of the main reasons this condition is diagnosed is that the person ends up in the hospital or doctor’s office because they have ingested something that requires emergency intervention.

Signs and symptoms of pica

One of the reasons this disorder is so difficult to diagnose is that there are no specific symptoms outside of use. Also, each person has different taste preferences, so there are few characteristics. The only characteristic that identifies it is that a person consumes foods with little or no nutritional value.

Since there are no symptoms of this condition, the mental health community divided the disorder into subcategories. They are as follows:

• Acuphagia: consuming sharp objects

• Amylophagia: eating starches

• Cautopyreiogphagia: digest burnt matches

• Coniophagia: craving for dust

• Coprophagia: eating stool

• Emetophagia: consumption of vomit

• Geomelophagy: eat raw potatoes

• Geophagy: the desire and consumption of earth, clay and soils.

• Hyalophagia – Eating cup

• Lithophagy: consuming stones or rocks

• Mucophagia: craving for mucus

• Pagophagia: compulsion to eat ice

• Trichophagia: eating hair, wool or other fibrous elements

• Urophagia: the compulsion to drink urine

• Hematophagia: the desire for blood (also called vampirism)

• Xylophagy: eating wood or paper products

What triggers Pica?

The medical community has not been able to find any direct cause of pica, although there is much speculation. Each case is as unique as the person, making the diagnosis even more difficult. According to Health guide information, most people have emotional trauma or family problems stemming from abuse or neglect that feed their consumption problems.

It is common for a pregnant person to consume things that they would not normally consume at another time. But lose your cravings at the time of delivery. Some believe there is a vital link in vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can fuel this eating disorder. Being malnourished or deficient in something the body needs to function can cause intense cravings to fill the void.

People who crave dirt, dust, rocks, and soil are often anemic or have low levels of red blood cells. Pregnancy can cause anemia and insufficient hemoglobin, so this could explain why these strange cravings happen to pregnant women.

In recent times, pica has been linked to the anxiety-based obsessive-compulsive spectrum. However, this is a distinct mental disorder that overlaps in symptoms. A interesting study found a strong connection between OCD and schizophrenia, although more studies will be needed.

This eating disorder does not have to be a mental disorder, as some people consume things as part of their cultural or ritual practice. Regardless of the reasoning, it is not safe to eat something that the body cannot digest properly.

Treatment options and when to seek help

Most people don’t think they have a problem until they have a medical crisis due to their eating disorder. Due to the wide variety of things that are consumed, it is easy to see why some people land in the emergency room. Anyone with this disorder should be closely supervised, as their compulsions take over their reason for being and they seem completely normal.

Like any eating disorderIt can be difficult to deal with, but help is available. The doctor will evaluate many things before deciding the best course of treatment. The first concern is the severity of this problem and whether an environmental factor comes into play. The second concern is underlying vitamin and mineral deficiencies, so doctors order blood tests to confirm or deny a problem.

Finally, people with mental illness or developmental disabilities will need a different course of treatment than someone with a mineral deficiency. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the underlying factors to begin the appropriate treatment. The most common method would be counseling that includes behavioral therapies to reduce the severity of symptoms.

Positive reinforcement is a good option, and aversion therapy will help those with intellectual disabilities. Treatment plans for a person with obsessive compulsive disorder, such as exposure therapy, are commonly used to help a person with this condition, specifically if it is considered to be anxiety-based.

Difficulties associated with strange consumptions

It is easy to see how complications can arise when someone eats something that the body cannot digest. A story found in the Independent newspaper reports a 38-year-old woman who had trouble eating her hair. After being rushed to the emergency room, doctors retrieved a six-inch hairball from her stomach.

The hair lodged deep in his digestive tract. Upon closer examination, they also found another nearly two-inch ball in his small intestine. The article claimed that this condition had been documented only 88 times in medical history and is often referred to as Rapunzel syndrome.

If a person has a compulsion to ingest toxic things like paint chips, it can be fatal. Before much was known about this condition in the 1950s, Clare Boothe Luce was poisoned by paint chips that fell from the roof of her home. The fries got into his food and made their way into his body. She accidentally ingested this painting. But the aftermath was disastrous.

According to The Robinson Library, He quit his job because he suffered arsenic poisoning from ingesting the paint. He later died of a brain tumor, which many theorize was due to his poisoning years earlier. Humans should not consume anything but food. Therefore, when any foreign substance enters the digestive tract, it can wreak havoc on the entire system.

Final thoughts on Pica’s obsessive compulsive nature

Whether caused by a mental illness, an anxiety disorder, or a vitamin deficiency, society doesn’t talk about pica. It is common for children to experiment with textures and flavors as they grow, and they may enjoy daring to eat grass or dirt.

However, one must have a compulsion to eat non-nutritious items for a month or more to get this diagnosis. Why the body craves things like hair or metal is still a medical anomaly. The important thing is to recognize the signs of this eating disorder before things get out of hand.

According to an article published in the US National Library of Medicine, about a third of children up to six years of age have this condition. Many say that it is difficult to estimate when it comes to adults, since most people are secretly involved. In fact, most only seek help for pica once they face serious health complications.


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