Imagine wanting to eat chalk or soil. Sounds strange, right? People wanting to eat strange things isn’t just a pregnancy thing. It can happen to anyone. What drives people to eat weird things is a condition called pica.
In a Health For Mzansi article, experts talk about the potential risks associated with pica, depending on the items consumed, such as blockages or tearing in the intestines and the risk of infection from certain items.
From chalk, soil, soap, paper, or even hair, pica goes beyond the boundaries of ordinary cravings.
According to Dr Mzamo Jakavula, a general medical doctor from Cape Town, pica can be a manifestation of mental health disorders or certain medical conditions like iron deficiency.
“Some mental health illnesses, like intellectual disability and schizophrenia, can cause pica. Also, certain medical conditions, like iron deficiency, are known to be causes.”
The article also highlights that, in some cases, pica may resolve on its own, particularly in children and pregnant women.
Treatment for pica
The article also includes real-life accounts of individuals with pica, such as Mmathabo Tshehla from Mpumalanga, who eats toilet paper and paper daily.
“I eat toilet paper and paper, which can be from any book, for as long as I am going to tear a little to feed my cravings, and it satisfies me and makes me feel happy and good.”
Another individual from Klerksdorp shares how they used to eat soap but now consume nails to reduce stress.
“I used to eat soap, but my friends used to laugh at me, so I eventually managed to stop. I now eat nails about five to eight times a day to reduce my stress. The urge to eat my nails is triggered by overthinking and stress, so doing so is calming.”
The article also explores how pica can be treated through various modalities of psychotherapy, including aversion therapy, behaviour therapy, etc.
This article was first published on Health For Mzansi and written by Candice Khumalo.
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