PICA is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by eating substances that have no nutritional value and may even be harmful when ingested. Typical items include: ice, hair, paper, drywall or paint, metal, cotton, stones or soil, glass, feces or chalk. People who suffer with PICA often have digestive issues such as constipation, bloating, and gastric pain but can also have bowel perforation, and symptoms of poisoning depending on the substance ingested.
According to the DSM-5 criteria, to be diagnosed with Pica a person must display:
- Persistent eating of non-nutritive substances for a period of at least one month.
- The eating of non-nutritive substances is inappropriate to the developmental level of the individual.
- The eating behavior is not part of a culturally supported or socially normative practice.
- If occurring in the presence of another mental disorder (e.g. autistic spectrum disorder), or during a medical condition (e.g. pregnancy), it is severe enough to warrant independent clinical attention.
Note: Pica often occurs with other mental health disorders associated with impaired functioning.
At Living Hope we offer outpatient consultation and evaluation for those suspected of struggling with PICA. After a thorough physical and mental health evaluation we will make a treatment recommendation which may include eating disorder treatment or more intensive mental health treatment.