Teen Eating Disorders
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What is Pica?

A person afflicted with pica has a persistent craving for a substance that is not commonly considered to be food. The substances that are craved and ingested tend to vary with the person's age. Children with pica may eat glue, animal droppings, sand, insects, leaves, or gravel. Adolescents and adults may consume clay, laundry detergent, or soil.

Although the cravings associated with pica may be related to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, ingesting non-foods can cause serious medical complications such as intestinal obstruction, intestinal perforation, infections, or lead poisoning.

Pica is most frequently seen in young children and pregnant women.


Craving and eating non-food substances.


While the exact cause for pica is still uncertain, factors such as emotional deprivation, poverty, poor nutrition, anemia, neglect, lack of parental supervision, or developmental delay increase the risk for a person developing this eating disorder.


People with pica can often benefit from therapy. Therapy can be especially helpful in addressing the emotional consequences of this eating disorder, in preventing pica from leading to other eating disorders, and in working through any psychological causes that contributed to the onset of the condition.