It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week and here’s another (hopefully useful or informative) nugget.
Pica is, perhaps, one of the lesser known diagnoses which sometimes is thrown into the pot with eating disorders, especially when there is a clear compulsive element involved. Though not specifically defined as an eating disorder alone and is often seen running alongside other mental and emotional issues, in Pica, people may eat items that are non-food substances and have no obvious connection with feeding and nutrition.
Pica has a number of complications: it can belie other, deeper psychological problems; it can result in intestinal trauma due to stomach or bowel damage or blockage; it can be indicative of a severe mineral deficiency or can be a coping mechanism in the management of food intake when it is pathological.
Pica often occurs in animals. However, in humans, it us sometimes an element of specific cultural norms so should not always be viewed as something ‘dysfunctional’, depending upon the context.
(Originally published in 2012)