Also Known As:

Pica Disorder

What is Pica?

Pica is a psychological eating disorder characterised by an appetite and craving for substances that have no nutritional value. Substances include; ice, hair, paper, drywall, paint, metal, stones, soil, glass, faeces, and chalk.


There are various causes of Pica including:
•   A deficiency in iron, zinc, or other nutrients
•   Your body is trying to replenish low nutrient levels
•   People with certain mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may develop pica as a coping mechanism
•   Dieting and malnourishment can both lead to pica.


People with pica eat non-food items regularly. The behaviour must continue for at least one month to be classified as Pica.

An affected person might eat relatively harmless items, such as ice. Or they might eat potentially dangerous items, like flakes of dried paint or pieces of metal. In the latter case, the disorder can lead to serious consequences, such as lead poisoning.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will diagnose this condition based on your history and several other factors. A blood test will be used to determine whether the cause is low nutrients.

The doctor will begin by treating any complications you’ve acquired from eating non-food items. If they think your pica is caused by nutrient imbalances, your doctor may prescribe vitamin or mineral supplements. The doctor may also organise a psychological evaluation to determine if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder or another mental health condition.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis suggests that a simple multi-vitamin supplement may be an effective treatment in some cases.

Additional Information

This disorder occurs most often in children and pregnant women, and it’s usually temporary. Pica also occurs in people who have intellectual disabilities. It’s often more severe and long-lasting in people with severe developmental disabilities.

There are various forms of Pica disorder including:
•   Pagophagia: Compulsive consumption of ice
•   Trichophagia: Compulsive consumption of hair
•   Xylophagia: Compulsive consumption of paper
•   Metallophagia: Compulsive consumption of metal
•   Lithophagia: Compulsive consumption of stones
•   Geophagia: Compulsive consumption of soil
•   Hyalophagia: Compulsive consumption of glass
•   Coprophagia: Compulsive consumption of Faeces

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Published Date:

11th December 2018


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