Pica is characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive, such as ice, clay, chalk, dirt, or sand.

According to DSM-IVcriteria, for these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more than one month at an age where eating such objects is considered developmentally inappropriate, not part of culturally sanctioned practice and sufficiently severe to warrant clinical attention.

There are different variations of pica, as it can be from a cultural tradition, acquired taste or a neurological mechanism such as an iron deficiency, or chemical imbalance.  It can lead to intoxication in children which can result in an impairment in both physical and mental development.  In addition, it can also lead to surgical emergencies due to an intestinal obstruction as well as more subtle symptoms such as nutritional deficiencies.

Pica has been linked to mental disorders and they often have psychotic comorbidity.  Stressors such as maternal deprivation, family issues, parental neglect, pregnancy, poverty, and a disorganized family structure are strongly linked to pica.

Subtypes are characterized by the substance eaten for example:

  • Amylophagia (consumption of starch)
  • Coprophagy (consumption of feces)
  • Geophagy (consumption of soil, clay, or chalk)
  • Hyalophagia (consumption of glass)
  • Lithophagia (a subset of geophagia, consumption of pebbles or rocks)
  • Mucophagia (consumption of mucus)
  • Odowa (soft stones eaten by pregnant women in Kenya)
  • Pagophagia (pathological consumption of ice)
  • Trichophagia (consumption of hair or wool)
  • Urophagia (consumption of urine)
  • Xylophagia (consumption of wood or paper)
  • Consumption of paint.
  • Consumption of dust or sand has been reported among iron-deficient patients.
  • Self-cannibalism (rare condition where body parts may be consumed; see also Lesch-Nyhan syndrome)

This pattern of eating should last at least one month to fit the diagnosis of pica.

Quoted from Source: – Pica
Featured Image Source: – when what you crave is not fit for human consumption

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