Pica is an unusual medical disorder that causes the patient to develop an appetite for non-edible substances, such as coal, rock, paper, soap, clay, etc. However, some cases have shown that the patient will only develop an unusual appetite eating things like flour, raw potatoes, starch, salt, etc. Pica gets its name from the Latin word for magpie, a bird that is said to eat almost anything.
I’m almost positive everyone has had an experience in their very early childhood where they tried, or did eat something that wasn’t meant to be eaten, but at such a young age it is merely due to the fact that we haven’t developed enough to recognize edible and non-edible objects. For one to have Pica, the desire to eat such objects must last for more than one month, during a time when we should be able to properly recognize the substance we are eating as edible or non-edible. Pica is especially dangerous in children. A child might start eating painted plaster that contains lead, resulting in permanent brain damage.
There hasn’t been an enormous amount of research done on the topic of Pica, but some of the research that has been done suggests that pica is caused by a mineral deficiency, but there is also the possibility that Pica may be caused by a mental disorder similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Treatment for Pica can vary. Treatments range from treating mineral deficiencies to therapy and medication. Generally medication is the last resort after every other treatment has been attempted.
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