Serious mental disorder called Pica


Pica is an eating disorder in which the sufferer compulsively eats foods that are not normally considered food and have no nutritional value. For example, ice, paint, soap, brick, plastic, buttons, clay, hair, soil, sand, cigarette ash, glue, chalk, stone, paper, shampoo, glass, shit, wool, etc.

The word pica is derived from the Latin word pica-pica. pica-pica is the Latin name for the magpie species, which have a large diet and usually eat whatever they find in front of them. Because of their peculiar eating habits and the similarity of patients with pica, the disease is named after the bird.

What is pica?

An outbreak of this eating disorder, called pica, is seen in children, pregnant women, and the elderly with dementia. Pica is usually temporary. This disorder is more common in children. 10 to 30 percent of young children between the ages of 1 and 6 are more likely to develop an eating disorder called pica. However, children under 2 years of age cannot be considered to have pica. Because babies at this time discover everything around them by tasting it, they put anything they can find into their mouths first. Pica can also occur in children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder.

Pica is very rare for pregnant women. Usually, women who are deficient in essential minerals tend to eat junk (soil). In that case, the lack of iron and zinc is thought to cause the desire to eat something strange. The incidence of pica is slightly higher among tribals, which is attributed to their poverty, malnutrition, and cultural consumption of soil or clay.

What are the causes of the eating disorder called pica?

The real cause of this disease is not known till now. However, experts believe that the following factors are associated with Pica:

Pica can arise from a lack of essential minerals in the body of those who are malnourished or starving.

Children who have been abused or neglected or who live in extreme poverty may develop this eating disorder.

During pregnancy, many pregnant women eat soil. But it is mainly due to iron deficiency.

An eating disorder called pica is seen in developmental and intellectual disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders.

Pica can also be seen in the presence of various mental health problems such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Many indigenous people eat clay or mud to cure stomach ailments or to improve digestion. As a result of eating soil for a long time, their body is deficient in iron and zinc. It can also be one of the causes of pica.

What are the symptoms of pica?

Pica has no specific symptoms. The symptoms of the disease are mainly caused by poisoning or bacterial effects from eating junk food. Below are some symptoms of pika:


Stomach ache



Stomach ulcers (blood in the stool may occur).

It May cause symptoms of lead poisoning (eating dried paint)

Broken or crushed teeth (by eating hard objects like glass, stone, brick, or metal pieces).

Intestinal obstruction may occur. Non-digestible foods can cause obstruction

It May cause infection. There is a possibility of infection by eating uneaten food containing germs and parasites.


Also, if a person eats something that is not appropriate for his culture or age, and if he continues to do so for a month, it can be an important symptom of pica. A person suffering from pica usually shows reluctance to eat food.

How is the eating disorder called pica diagnosed?

There is no specific lab test to diagnose pica. Pica is mainly diagnosed by looking at history and listening to family members. However, some tests are done if you suspect that you have pica. For example:

Blood test: Checks for anemia. Low levels of iron and zinc are also seen.

Lead level: If the affected person eats dried paint, the level of lead in the blood is determined.

Stool examination: To see if there is any damage to the intestines or bleeding from the stool.

Intestinal blockage evaluation: seen through X-ray or any other test.

Patients who eat soil or other non-food items are tested for parasitic or bacterial infections.

Weight loss is assessed.

Nutritional deficiencies are also checked.

How is pica treated?

Treatment of pica begins with treating the adverse effects of malnutrition on the body. For example, if the lead is found in excess in the body of the victim, the doctor will give him some medicine and food instructions. Lead binds to the drug and is excreted from the body.

If the doctor notices the imbalance of nutrients in the patient’s body, he may prescribe some vitamin and mineral supplements. In many patients, the eating habit goes away if the person’s mineral deficiency is remedied.

The doctor then checks if the patient has any mental problems, such as schizophrenia and OCD. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor advises the patient on diet, medicine, therapy, or both. Psychiatrists claim that this disease can be completely cured with counseling and medicine.

This eating disorder called pica cannot be prevented. However, proper nutrition can prevent acne.

Pica in children and pregnant women is mainly due to zinc and iron deficiency, so they need proper nutrition to notice anything abnormal in their diet. The disease is associated with mental illness, anxiety, malnutrition, and anemia. So mental health should be given importance. Along with that, nutritious food should also be kept in the diet. See a doctor immediately if your child or someone close to them cannot stop themselves from eating junk food. Timely treatment can prevent serious health problems.


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