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Pica: Another Important Eating Disorder

Aug 18, 2007
When one thinks about eating disorders, the first illnesses that come to mind are the more commonly occurring eating problems, such as anorexia and bulimia. Few realize that there are actually many other types of eating disorders, which can be equally serious for those who suffer from them. In this article, we'll discuss a lesser-known eating disorder, known as pica. We will then help you to learn more about the disease and its treatment, so you can help someone in your circle if you encounter these pathologies.

Many of the better-known eating disorders involve a low-self image and a desire to become thinner. Pica differs completely from these classic models. This syndrome is defined as a disorder in which one constantly feels the need to eat things that are not commonly considered food.

The name 'pica' was given to the disorder because in Latin, Pica means "magpie," which is a type of bird that often has an odd diet. Magpies are known to eat or steal many non-food items for their nests.

While the cravings to eat non-food objects (such as children eating dirt, for example) may occur for a short time in some individuals, the symptoms can persist for a much longer period of time. In these cases, Pica may be the accurate diagnosis.

Things that people with pica often desire to eat may include dirt, chips of paint, starch for use in laundry, feces of animals, soap, or glue. These are just a few of the things that one with Pica may desire to consume, and there are many other things to consider. While some of the things that those with pica desire to eat can be consumed with little to no negative effects on the body, others can have terribly bad effects.

There are several reasons why one may develop a case of Pica. In many cases, it is a natural response of the body to a deficiency of certain minerals, such as iron or zinc. Poor diets may also result in a desire to eat non-food items, and malnutrition can sometimes be pointed to as the cause. Mental retardation can also be responsible, as well as certain cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Women who are pregnant may also experience a case of Pica, as cravings during pregnancy can be intense and odd.

In order to treat Pica, one must understand the underlying conditions leading to the symptoms and results in each person. In many cases, the disorder can be cleared up by addressing the mineral deficiency that may be causing the urges. Psychotherapy may also be employed in order to help a person to cure themselves of their Pica urges.

It's important to address Pica as soon as the diagnosis is made, as this disease can cause malnutrition and lead poisoning. Infections may occur, and if one is eating certain items, intestinal blockage can treat major and possibly deadly consequences.

If you know someone who you suspect is undergoing a problem with the eating disorder with these symptoms, you may want to ask him or her to visit a doctor in order to address the problem and determine the cause. It could be as simple as a mineral deficiency, or it could be something more intractable. While Pica is an odd eating disorder, it's no laughing matter. Pica should be treated whenever it is diagnosed.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Eating Disorders.
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