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The Eating of Unedible Substances is Called Pica

Updated on April 14, 2013


Pica is a strange and unusual eating disorder where people eat inedible substances. In order to be diagnosed with the eating disorder persons would have to have the disorder for a month or more. There are unedible substances that people with pica ingest, such as clay, dirt, ice, pencil erasers, paint chips, and more. When people are ingesting inedible substances, its more than likely due to pica, especially, when a person is at an age that this type of behavior is not appropriate. Ingesting paint chips, especially in older homes, can cause lead poisoning in children and adults. Lead poisoning can cause health problems, including mental retardation.

Why would anyone want to ingest non edible substances? It could be caused by deficiencies in the diet, a poor diet. Some people who may have pica, might like how the substance they ingest feels like in their mouth, or they crave unusual substances that are inappropriate. The disorder is seen most frequently in children. People with developmental disabilities can have the disorder, which is common. Children up to two years old, are known to put things in their mouths, which is common and is not considered to be Pica. There are many factors to consider, before making a diagnosis. The age of the person, the culture, and whether or not there is a mental disorder present. Some cultures sanction eating substances that are not edible, but are not considered to be pica. Why would anyone want to eat dirt, clay, or any other inedible substance? People who feel the need to eat inedible substances, must have a strong desire to ingest the substance.

Health Risks

There are health risks to ingesting substances like dirt, clay, paint chips, and any other substance that is not edible and is not nutritional. Eating dirt can lead to parasitic infestations, because dirt could contain feces. Parasite infestations could range from mild to severe. Eating paint chips could cause lead poisoning, which would cause many health problems. There can be many gastrointestinal problems caused by eating inedible substances, including constipation and intestinal obstruction. Many older homes have old paint that contains lead. If children eats paint chips that contain lead, they could have many health problems.

Pica occurs around the world, and is often unrecognized and not reported. Sometimes people will not admit to having the eating disorder. Eating contaminated inedible substances can lead to infections, which is a health hazard. When a person eats inedible substances, which has no nutritional value, they are not getting the nutrients that they need for their health. People, who might have pica, should seek medical attention to get help with this condition. Eating inedible substances is not safe, and if it is pica, it needs to be diagnosed by a physician, so that the condition can be treated.

Things That Should Not Be Eaten

It is hard to believe that anyone would eat sharp objects that are definitely not edible. Some people, who suffer from pica, actually eat light bulbs. How could anyone eat light bulbs? The glass from the light bulbs would be very dangerous. The glass from the bulbs would cut the gastrointestinal tract, and a person who eats light bulbs would certainly bleed from the glass. Pica can be mild, severe, and everything in between. People, who have pica and eat ice would not suffer like the ones who eat sharp objects and light bulbs. Pica is a very strange and unusual condition. Some of the inedible substances can be extremely hazardous, and can cause much harm to the body.

Pica Documentary

Man Addicted to Eating Glass

Eating Glass

Eating glass sounds very dangerous. It sure is a strange eating disorder, glass is one of the most dangerous substances that a person could ingest. The glass would cut the insides of the body, and could cause death. A person, who eats glass could bleed to death from internal injuries from the glass.


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    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 6 years ago from Mason City

      It is a peculiar act for sure. Vincent Van Gogh could have suffered from pica. Eating paint would be unusual. He could have had menteal problems before. I wouldn't want to eat paint. Eating light bulbs and glass is very peculiar. I don't know how anyone could ever eat glass?

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 6 years ago

      Very peculiar act indeed. I wonder whether Vincent Van Gogh was suffering from Pica; he was eating paint. Some writeup mentioned that eating paint caused him to have mental disorder, but he could have had mental problem prior to that.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 6 years ago from Mason City

      Thanks. It sounds like a very strange disorder.

    • Ruchi Urvashi profile image

      Ruchi Urvashi 6 years ago from Singapore

      Something very new and unheard. I came to know something new. Voted up.