Pica Eating Disorder: The Habit of Consuming Non-Food Items

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Pica Eating Disorder: The Habit of Consuming Non-Food Items
Pica Eating Disorder: The Habit of Consuming Non-Food Items

Pica eating disorder is one type of eating disorder in the form of desire and appetite for objects or substances that are not food or have no nutritional value. This eating disorder can happen to anyone, but it is most experienced by children, pregnant women, and people with intellectual disabilities

People suffering from pica eating disorder may eat harmless objects, such as ice cubes; or hazardous to he alth, such as dry paint chips or metal scraps. This eating pattern can be considered a pica eating disorder if it has been going on for at least 1 month.

Pica Eating Disorder: The Habit of Consuming Non-Food Items

In children, the diagnosis of pica eating disorder is only applied to children over the age of 2 years. The reason is, the habit of biting or putting foreign objects into the mouth in children under the age of 2 years is indeed a part of child development, so it is not considered a pica eating disorder.

Pica Eating Disorder Symptoms

People with pica eating disorder usually like to eat things like:

  • Ice cubes
  • Hair
  • Dust
  • Sand
  • Glue
  • Chalk
  • Clay
  • paint flakes
  • Bath soap
  • Cigarette Ash
  • Cigarette butt
  • Stool/feces

In addition to unusual food choices, people with pica eating disorders may also experience:

  • Digestive problems, such as stomach pain, nausea, and bloating
  • Behavior problem
  • Other he alth problems, such as being very thin and tired due to anemia and malnutrition

The Causes of Pica Eating Disorder

Until now, the exact cause of pica eating disorder is not known. However, there are several things that may increase a person's risk of suffering from this condition, including:

  • Children's age
  • Pregnancy
  • Developmental disorders, such as autism or mental retardation
  • Mental he alth problems, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or schizophrenia
  • Certain nutritional deficiencies, such as in iron deficiency anemia and zinc deficiency
  • Economic problems
  • Harassment

In children and pregnant women, pica eating disorder is generally only temporary and can get better without the need for treatment. However, pica eating disorder can also last for a long time. This is usually experienced by patients with mental he alth problems.

Diagnosing Pica Eating Disorder

Before treating pica eating disorder, the doctor will ask about your eating habits and the problems it causes, as well as perform a physical examination. If necessary, the doctor may order blood tests to see if the patient has low iron or zinc levels.

Most people with pica eating disorder will come to the doctor when they experience problems due to their diet, not because of the diet itself. Therefore, people with pica eating disorder are expected to be honest and open with doctors about non-food items that are often consumed.

The role of a companion or parent is also very important in this regard, especially if people with pica eating disorder are children and adults with mental retardation or poor communication skills.

Pica Eating Disorder Treatment

Treatment of pica eating disorder usually starts with treating the symptoms felt due to consuming non-food objects or substances. For example, if a patient has lead poisoning from eating paint chips, the doctor will prescribe medication to excrete lead through urine.

Meanwhile, if the pica eating disorder is caused by a nutritional imbalance, the doctor may prescribe vitamin or mineral supplements, for example, iron and vitamin C supplements to treat iron deficiency.

In addition, the doctor will also evaluate the patient psychologically to determine whether he or she has certain mental he alth conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or autism.

If there are mental he alth problems, the doctor will prescribe suitable medication or therapy or refer the patient to a psychiatrist. That way, it is hoped that the behavior of consuming objects or substances that are not food can be reduced and lost.

In the long term, pica eating disorders can have a negative impact on he alth, ranging from parasitic infections, intestinal blockage, and poisoning. Therefore, if you have pica eating disorder or know someone who has it, don't delay to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist.

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