We all have heard or seen a child eat something weird like dirt. In fact, we might have done something like this as well as a toddler! So, it is a pretty common thing to hear.
The issue arises when this becomes a habit, and a person eats a non-food item compulsively. This compulsion is known as Pica eating disorder.
Although it develops in children, as they grow up, such eating habits mostly go away. But sometimes, it doesn’t and persists in adults. Pica eating disorder may also appear during pregnancy in rare cases.
So, keep on reading to know everything about this pica eating disorder, what causes pica cravings, what are the signs of pica, how do you cure pica cravings, and so on.
What is pica eating disorder?
A person with pica eating disorder usually consumes harmless non-food items such as ice in a compulsive manner for at least a month. In extreme cases, such people may also end up eating something harmful, which may lead to severe health risks.
A person with such an eating disorder may consume:
- Metallic items
These are some of the commonly known items that people with pica consume. However, they may also consume any other non-food item other than these.
What are the signs of pica eating disorder?
The compulsive craving and consumption of non-food items that continue more than a month are one of the fundamental signs of pica eating disorder.
- Stomach pain
- Bloody stool
- Indigestion leading to constipation, diarrhoea.
What causes pica cravings?
Learning about pica, many of us will also think about what causes pica cravings, which will explain why the person consumes such items.
There are a number of factors that cause a person to crave inedible items, both harmless and harmful.
- Most commonly, doctors point out that the person is malnourished and the body tries to acquire the nourishment with such cravings.
- A person suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD), schizophrenia, autism, or any mental disability may develop pica eating disorder.
- Pregnant women rarely develop pica due to the deficiencies of iron or any other nutrient in the body.
- The negative psychological impact such as trauma, neglect in early childhood can also lead to the development of pica eating disorder.
Diagnosis and how do you cure pica cravings?
There is no particular medical diagnostic test to confirm pica in a person. Most people with this disorder hesitate to share what they have consumed, and some even hide the fact that they are consuming something inedible.
Based on eating history and consistency, doctors can move forward with treatment. As a first step, doctors mostly will advise for blood tests, X-rays to check any abnormalities. Blood tests will help the doctor understand if there is any underlying nutrient deficiency. In case, there is any deficiency, the doctor will prescribe the required medication.
Doctors also recommend behavioural therapy to help deal with the compulsive eating behaviour, making the patient learn to fight the pica cravings.
The family members and loved ones have to take precautionary measures and stay vigilant at all times to make this disorder go away. Take away all objects from the living space and house that the person might eat.
Complications related to pica eating disorder
- In severe circumstances, pica eating disorder can lead to heavy metal poisoning that can be deadly. If you consume metallic objects consistently and the body cannot excrete the objects, with time it will lead to metal poisoning. Metal poisoning can lead to brain damage.
- The objects that are hard for the body to excrete can get blocked in the intestines, causing constipation. Moreover, the consumption of sharp objects, stones can tear the inner lining of the intestines. Quite a painful situation, isn’t it?
- Possibility of bacterial infection.
Prevention of Pica
Pica is, in fact, an eating behaviour that develops to numerous conditions – nutritional deficiency of iron, zinc, underlying mental disability, psychological stress.
So, all you can do is keep an eye if you suspect your child with pica. If the eating habits persist for more than a month, take your child to a doctor without hesitation.
Adults who think they have pica, visit a doctor for consultation and guidance, as well. Seek support from your loved ones, friends, and family. Pica mostly goes undetected in most cases as no one really shares about such compulsions.
We all have cravings for our favourite food from time to time. But, craving and eating something that is not a food item is a red flag. There is nothing to be shy if you crave and eat it.
However, you will have to try to stop the consumption of non-food items, as your health may be at risk. Pica eating disorder is generally curable if the patient is compliant with medical help.
If you are an avid horror movie fan, then you must watch the movie, Swallow. The plotline of the movie is about a pregnant woman who develops pica.
On a different note, many are unaware of such eating disorders. Many people may be consuming non-food items, be it harmless without understanding the reason behind the cravings.
So, it is important that people know about pica and its harmfulness. Parents with toddlers never neglect your kids or keep them in a stressful environment.
Severe stress may lead to the development of pica eating disorder. Keep the diet of your child in check, as well. It develops in kids aged 1 to 6 but can continue or develop in adults as well.
If you know anyone suffering from pica, encourage them to fight the cravings. Some can easily make the pica cravings go away, but some need professional help.
So, these were a few things that everyone should know about pica eating disorders and what possible consequences a person suffering from pica may face.
Lastly, it is also worth mentioning that it is wrong to look down upon those who are prone to or have any mental illness.