What is Pica? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

Pica is a type of eating disorder. Today, we’ll discuss what is pica eating disorder; its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Pica?

Pica is a form of an eating disorder that comprises eating things other than food like hair, paper, dirt, chips, and paint. The items they eat and swallow do not offer any real nutritional value to their body. However, pica condition is very common among children, but it happens in adults as well. It has an association with developmental and intellectual disabilities like ASD (autism spectrum disorder).

According to an estimate, roundabout one-third of the children of aging 1-6 years exhibit the symptoms of P eating disorder. It’s significant to mention here that kids below the age of two years old don’t have the diagnosis with P condition. It’s because it’s normal for young children and toddlers to put foreign things into their mouths. The P condition can happen among adults when they have got a craving for a specific type of texture in their mouth.

Pregnant ladies have got some type of P condition and it makes them crave particular types of nutrients and minerals that there in the dirt. The deficiencies of zinc and iron would trigger the craving for the P condition. Geophagy is the other type of P disorder and it has an association with nutrient craving, and it comprises eating clay, the earthly substance.

Symptoms of Pica

The P condition exhibits a wide range of symptoms, and they are all associated with the impact of nonfood things that you eat. The symptoms of pica condition would exhibit as a result of eating poison or toxic content in the nonfood items. Some of the main symptoms are as follows;

  • Lead poisoning and other symptoms of poor nutrients
  • Problems in the school
  • Behavioral problems
  • Fatigue
  • Infections caused by parasites and germs after eating nonfood items
  • Interstitial blockage from eating non-food items that don’t get digested and end up blocking your intestine
  • Broken or fractured teeth after chewing hard nonfood items
  • Lead poisoning from eating paint chips that contain lead
  • Stomach ulcers and would result in the form of blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain or abdominal cramping as a result of intestinal blockages
  • Nausea

People with P condition eat food filled with nutrients along with nonfood items. Often, people with the P condition are malnourished nutritionally. You should call the doctor or 911 emergency if you feel extreme pain and choking.

People with Pica Eat 

Some of the main non-food items that people with pica condition eat are as follows;

  • Gum
  • Talcum powder
  • Wool
  • String
  • Cloth
  • Shampoo
  • Rubber band
  • Toys like Lego bricks
  • Rocks
  • Cigarette butts
  • Grass and plants
  • Chalk
  • Hair
  • Sand
  • Paint chips
  • Ice
  • Animal faces
  • Clay
  • Paper
  • Dirt

Causes of Pica

Researchers don’t know the exact and precise cause of the pica condition. Some of the main factors that would amplify the risk of developing the P disorder and they’re as follows;

  • Pregnant people experience the craving for dirt on rare occasions, and it has links with a deficiency in iron
  • Stressful circumstances like kids living in extreme poverty, neglected or abused
  • For people with malnutrition or who have experienced a high level of hunger, it results in the form of low levels of zinc, iron, and other nutrients; and it would trigger the specific types of cravings
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, or other mental health conditions
  • Autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, and other developmental disorders

Causes in Children with Autism

Various factors have an association with the P condition among children with ASD. Some of the main reasons that such children crave food are as follows;

  • Nutritional Deficiency: it comprises of lack of zinc and iron nutritional elements
  • Incapability to Distinguish b/w Food/Non-Food: some kids can’t differentiate between edible food items and non-food items
  • Sensory Feedback: it’s the desire to achieve pleasurable feelings by eating non-food items

Treatment of Pica 

The treatment of the P condition depends on various underlying factors. Your doctor would analyze various symptoms resulting from P disorder, and the symptoms would differ depending on the ingested non-food items. Some of the main treatment plans are as follows;

  • Addressing other medical problems like lead poisoning
  • Nutritional deficiencies and nutritional supplementation
  • Prescribing antibiotics for infections
  • Stomach ulcer treatment
  • Medicines for diarrhea or constipation

Behavioral Treatment

The behavioral treatment is the same as for obsessive-compulsive disorder, trichophagia, and bulimia. The treatment plan for the P condition comprises of following;

  • Medication for managing behavioral issues like impulses and urges to eat the nonfood items
  • Behavioral modification programs redirect the attention of children away from non-food items and give them rewards for choosing food items over nonfood items
  • Referring them to the mental health professional

Conclusion: What is Pica? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is pica; its symptoms, causes, and treatment; we have realized that pica could badly impact your physical health. If you’re experiencing its symptoms; then you should consult with the therapist as soon as you can.