Eating disorder, Pica type

Table of Contents:

  1. How Is Pica Diagnosed?
  2. How Is Pica Treated?
  3. What Complications Are Associated With Pica?
  4. What Is the Outlook for People With Pica?
  5. Can Pica Be Prevented?

Pica is the incessant consumption of non-nutritive compounds such as soil or paint.


The Handbook of Clinical Child Psychology is a collection of books about clinical child psychology. Pica prevalence rates of institutionalised communities are currently estimated to vary from 4% to 26%. Specific case studies are used in research of non-institutionalized communities, rendering prevalence rates impossible to predict.


How Is Pica Diagnosed?


If pica is suspected, a medical examination is needed to rule out anaemia, intestinal blockages, or contamination from ingested substances. If signs are present, the doctor will begin by taking a full medical history and doing a physical examination. Certain scans, such as X-rays and blood tests, can be used by the specialist to screen for anaemia, chemicals and other compounds in the blood, and blockages in the digestive tract. The doctor may even run tests to see whether you’ve contracted an illness by consuming bacteria or other species. It’s possible to do an examination of the person’s eating patterns. 


Before diagnosing pica, the psychiatrist will rule out other conditions that may be behind the strange eating habits, such as learning disability, cognitive disabilities, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. For a diagnosis of pica, this form of behaviour must last at least one month.

How Is Pica Treated?


Because of the possibility of medical problems (such as lead poisoning) associated with pica, medical supervision is needed during care. Additionally, for the best handling in these complicated conditions, good cooperation with a behavioural wellbeing team experienced with managing pica is ideal. 


The Handbook for Clinical Child Psychology currently recommends general therapeutic methods as the most appropriate therapy for pica, including constructive reinforcement instruction on which foods are edible and which foods are not.

What Complications Are Associated With Pica?


Pica can cause a variety of problems, including:


  • Certain products, such as paint chips, can include lead or other poisonous chemicals, and consuming them may result in toxicity, raising the likelihood of injuries such as learning disorders and brain injury for the infant. The most alarming and possibly fatal side effect of pica is this.
  • Eating non-food items may make it difficult to consume nutritious foods, resulting in dietary deficiencies.
  • Constipation or blockages of the digestive system, like the intestines and bowels, may be caused by eating items that cannot be digested, such as stones. Strong or sharp surfaces (such as paperclips or metal scraps) may even trigger tears in the oesophagus or intestines’ covering.
  • Infections may be caused by bacteria or parasites found in soil or other things. The kidneys and liver may be harmed by certain diseases.
  • Care can be complicated as there are any intellectual disorders around.


What Is the Outlook for People With Pica?


Pica is a common childhood illness that lasts just a few months. It can, though, be more complex to do with children with learning disabilities.


Can Pica Be Prevented?

Pica cannot be prevented in any way. However, paying particular attention to eating patterns and supervising children who are likely to place items in their mouths will help detect the condition early on until it becomes a problem.


Referenced on  10.4.2021

  2. Section of Behavior Medicine at the Children’s Hospital at The Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Walker and M.C. Roberts (Eds.) The Handbook of Clinical Child Psychology (3rd Ed., 2001). New York: NY: John Wiley & Sons.

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