PICA Is Eating Everything But Food - DSM-5, Causes and Treatment

PICA: The 1,440 Items Found In One Person's Stomach

Things taken from a mental heath patient who was suffering from pica.
Things taken from a mental heath patient who was suffering from pica. | Source

This Hub is cited and quoted in the Journal of the International Society of Preventative and Community Dentistry: 2014 Jan-Apr; 4(1): 1–4.

PICA - The Official Diagnosis

America's psychiatric diagnoses manual, the DSM-5, published in 2013 and updated approximately once very two decades, shows eight types of Eating Disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Pica
  • Rumination Disorder
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
  • Other Specified Feeding or Disorder (disorders that do not fit into the first seven)

I worked largely with the diagnoses presented in the previous manual (DSM IV and DSM IV-TR, but pica remains much the same. I have seen a few cases of the disorder. The DSM-5 states that it often manifests itself in the presence of other mental disorder and I have found that to be true thus far.

The Official Symptoms

The criteria for a diagnosis of pica are listed below. I you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, ask a doctor about them and possible treatments, if needed.

  1. Strongly continuing to eat of non-food items for at least one month.
  2. This eating in No. 1 above is inappropriate to the developmental level of the individual.
  3. The eating in No. 1 above is not part of a culturally or socially usual/customary practice.
  4. If the eating in No. 1 occurs in the presence of another mental disorder (autistic spectrum disorder), or during a medical condition (pregnancy), and severe enough to warrant independent clinical attention, then it is diagnoses as pica.

Pica = Magpie in Latin

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Magpie in flight.A Magpie or Pica. This bird eats almost anything.
Magpie in flight.
Magpie in flight. | Source
A Magpie or Pica. This bird eats almost anything.
A Magpie or Pica. This bird eats almost anything. | Source

Why Is It Called "Pica"?

PICA comes from the Latin word that means magpie, which is a bird that is known for a big appetite to eat anything and everything.

Here are some of the things that kids (and adults) sometimes eat, if they have been diagnosed with or show signs of pica, or have yet been undiagnosed with any mental illness:

  • Dirt / clay / mud; clay pottery shards
  • Rubber erasers
  • Pencil wood
  • Play Doh
  • Paint chips
  • Plaster
  • Chalk
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking soda
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cigarette ashes / Burnt match heads / Cigarette butts
  • Feces
  • Ice
  • White Glue / White paste
  • Hair, from head or hair brushes. Cat hair is a newer item
  • Buttons
  • Pennies/nickels
  • Paper / cardboard
  • Sand
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap bars
  • News favorites among non-food eaters are the malamine sponge and foam pillow stuffing.

Materials like glass, plastic and metal are not changed in their passage through the bowel and might, in theory at least, be more hazardous than natural substances. Occasionally children or people in disturbed mental states swallow these sorts of things deliberately and it is remarkable how rarely they develop problems.

— Core Charity

Sponge Material Is a Big Non-Food Item In Pica

Eating some non-food items can result in bladder cancer.

Melamine, a Non-Food Protein

Scientific American Magazine researchers found that melamine, a high-nitrogen containing, non-food protein is added to food illegally to boost protein content for the nutritional label. It was used as protein for cattle to eat from 1958 through 1978, when it was found that it does not metabolize efficiently enough to be as effective as desired.

When eaten by humans in quantity, the end results of this melamine can be bladder cancer.

REFERENCE: Alison Snyder. "Protein Pretense." Scientific American Magazine. August 2007.

What Causes Pica?

The act or habit of eating things that are not food is called pica in medical and psychological textbooks. For children, who learn about the world by putting things into their mouths, pica is really fairly common. I remember kids in elementary school eating pencils and erasers... and a few crayons.

Some of the children were bored and some did not realize they were chewing on nonfood items, because they were thinking hard about a test question or a math problem. There were a lot of pencils with teeth marks on them elementary school. I see them in libraries and college classrooms on occasion even today and they make me laugh.

Unfortunately, some children do not have breakfast at home and they eat paper and other items, just because they are hungry and need to survive. Hopefully, subsidized school and summer breakfast and lunch programs are reaching most of them and they are receiving at least one or two meals a day in school. This initiative has helped a lot in the past 20 years.

One other serious possibility to consider is that pica can be - but not always is - associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but a licensed doctor or other qualified practitioner needs to determine that, with the input of the patient.

Developmentally, babies - more than elementary school kids - have a period of growth in which they put just about everything they find into their mouths, even their own feet. They usually go on to something more exciting that catches their attention and forget what they had in their mouths. When a child that has passed this developmental point and is older, but who suddenly begins to eat nonfood items once again, there may be a problem of some kind. In this case, there is likely some cause for it that can be found and eliminated, however.

Quote From Gut and Liver Disease Group

Interesting quote from the Core Charity in the UK at

"Materials like glass, plastic and metal are not changed in their passage through the bowel and might, in theory at least, be more hazardous than natural substances. Occasionally children or people in disturbed mental states swallow these sorts of things deliberately and it is remarkable how rarely they develop problems."

Dr. Tarbox - Autism and Pica

Curable Causes Of Pica

Fortunately, two very likely causes can be examined through a simple blood test. The first cause is easy to cure and if either cause is found to be at fault, steps can be taken to correct both problems.These causes are curable.

The first of the causes is low iron in the blood (anemia) and the second cause is a high blood level of lead.

Lead exposure is a problem for many children that live or visit for extended periods of time in older houses that have lead-based paint in them. These houses were built mainly before the 1970s and lead paint was outlawed in 1978). However, other sources of lead include certain types of medications, some kinds of pottery, and several other sources. The blood test for lead and anemia will help you to begin to narrow down the cause of eating paper and plastic and such.

There are other possibilities for the manifestation of pica in children. Some kids develop pica as a symptom of emotional distress. Some others experience developmental disorders that lead to longer periods of time eating nonfood items, or to returning to the behavior. Many of these problems would most likely not manifest only as pica, however. Other behaviors and symptoms would likely begin to appear.

People Sometimes East Paint

Lead paints are particularly dangerous.
Lead paints are particularly dangerous. | Source

Related Symptoms Sometimes Occur

Some of these unwanted behaviors accompanying pica can includes syndromes of behaviors that include:

  • Abnormal language,
  • Strange methods of play not used before, and
  • Strange relationships with friends of the child's own age (peer group).

Look for these things to occur and call your pediatrician or family doctor (general practitioner or internist) and discuss them with him or her. The child may also pull out his or her own hair and eyelashes, and that is part of another syndrome. If this happens, call the doctor right away.

Also, keep a diary or a daily log of the times when your child chews on paper and other nonfood items and when he/she does not. Make a note of what happened just before the behavior occurred and how soon it is after a meal or before the next meal. Write down anything that you think is important about each particular instance of pica behavior. The log or diary would be helpful to your doctor. Like so many puzzling situations, if you start writing things down, you begin seeing patterns.

Some People Eat Glue


Stress and Developmental Causes

Think about, and ask your child about, any new or recurring stresses in his life - a new baby at home, changing schools, a new job for a parent, a bully at school, etc. Remember that every time you move before the child is 5 years old will generally make him/her regress in maturity a bit for a while, but this will usually remedy itself. An example of this is bedwetting that begins with a move and ends when the child is more steeled in a routine.

If you suspect emotional or developmental problems, talk with your doctor ASAP. If everything seems fine and the blood tests are normal, ask your doctor if it is just a habit. If so, then try to keep paper and other nonfood items away from your child, if he/she is very young.

Some People Eat Paper

Paper Wad
Paper Wad | Source

What To Do About Pica?

Treatment may not even be required, but talk to your doctor to be sure.

Pica treatment can involve several kinds of licensed professionals, depending on the reasons for the disorder and the various symptoms and related syndromes.

A medical doctor must first look for for physical problems causing the pica and also caused BY it. It is vital that a medical practitioner be first to enter the case.

If there are socioeconomic matters involved, a social worker will become involved to provide education and guidance to remedy underlying problems such as poverty and the factors that are associated with it.

If psychological conditions are present, a licensed therapist or psychiatrist will become involved.

© 2007 Patty Inglish

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Comments and Additions 185 comments

jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 9 years ago from Scotland

Thanks Patty very informative i will seek further advice even though our GP laughed and said it was only a phase and nothing to worry about. this phase has lasted about 8 years now and it is getting dangerous I caught him with a battery in his mouth yesterday, thanks again .....jimmy

Veronica profile image

Veronica 9 years ago from NY

Very informative Patty. I remember learning about the oral, anal and phallic stages but I'd never heard of pica before.

Good luck, Jimmy. 8 years and dangerous things sounds like you need better assistance than a laughing dismissive GP.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago from North America Author

I agree, shop around until you find a doctor that takes you seriously. When I earned a master's in preventive medicine, I used to joke that I got that degree to "prevent doctors." LOL. But 8 years is a long time to have such a syndrome. AND people often say "it's just a phase" when they don't want to be bothered with it; "phase" = excuse, or cop out, for them.

La Toya Online profile image

La Toya Online 8 years ago from A little town.

Very informational hub! I have written one with my personal experience with pica.

<a href=" it is.</a>

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

I don't think I've heard of eating soap before. The aromas of bath and cleaning products certainly encourages it, in my opinion. In the first grade, many of the kids chewed on erasers, but I think it was more of that put-everything-in-your-mouth kind of thing left over from infanthood. Thanks for posting.

dutch84 profile image

dutch84 8 years ago

I've never heard of this.

Did you hear about how in Haiti people are eating dirt cakes?

But that is due to starvation, it's not exactly "by choice"...unless they develop a taste for it and then future generations call it a "delicacy"

Very interesting hub!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Yes, people eat mud in several places around the world.

In the Ice Age winters, wooly mammoths sometimes susbsisted on mud they dug up from frozen lakes and rivers where the upstream water froze solid and nothing flowed down to their grazing grounds. Some migrated somewhat southward, but not the majority.

julie brisbane 8 years ago

I look after a severely autistic 5yo girl who i am sure has pica. She has a severly self limited diet and no amount of encouragement can increase it. She will eat anything she can put into her mouth that is nonfood and licks and mouths everything. Concrete, trees, tiles etc. I would love any practical advice to get her to stop and maybe start eating some real food.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

The National Autiosm Center states that 30% of all young children eat non-food items, but children with autism can exhibit this behavior as a function of their condition.    

The child's parents/physicians should be giving you instructions. If she is in your foster care, the foster agency should be giving you training and instructions. CALL your local or nearest children's hospital and ask for help - they have hotlines. Your alternative is to call a local pediatrician and ask advice - you may need to make an appointment and go on.


All the best.

It just occurred to me how odd it is that "pica" is a name of three different things - 1) this eating disorder, 2) a size of type on a typewriter, and 3) a rodent-like animal (actually "pika").

Van Carman 8 years ago

I feel that some pica(eating soap) may enable the vitamin C synthesis process in humans.Many of the spices( Cinnamon included) seem to do this.Remember that all of our vitamin C enablers are intact,except for one enzyme .To me this does not seem to be a farfetched idea.Thanks,Van

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

You may have something there, Van. Many of today's soaps smell like food anyway.

Karen LaVelle profile image

Karen LaVelle 8 years ago from Texas

I had what is called pica when I was a child. I craved dirt. Black dirt. I made mud pies and I ate them. Nobody noticed this until I passed an earthworm, which amazingly, can survive the human digestion process. I was taken to the doctor along with the worm to identify what my problem was. I was 3 years old and had been eating dirt for a long time. The doctor explained that it was a vitamin deficiency and that by supplimenting my meals with vitamins the problem would eventually disappear. The vitamins were full of IRON. The taste of Iron was delicious to me and I gave up dirt...But, then I would sneak into the icebox when no one was looking and drink the bottle of vitamins. I did this until my parents realized what I was doing and drug me off to the doctor again. The doctor explained to me very urgently that too many vitamins would poison me and I could die. So, I craved the iron and I could always imagine the taste in my mind, I compensated by scratching the bumps in the wall paint and eating those (1950s). Yeah, lots of lead.

First grade, 7 years old, I discovered glue. I ate elmers glue, and I dearly loved the taste of that orangy, gold liquid glue with the stopper top. I also loved the feel and taste of coins. I must have eaten $100.00 worth of coins before I was made to stop putting coins in my mouth...they noticed that all the change was disappearing. In those days, people would break a thermometer and play with the mercury. They showed us kids how to make shiney quarters by rubbing it on the coin. I ate all the coins I could secretly put in my mouth. Lets see....I was one of those kids who refused to give up the bottle until I was about 5 years old.

All of these things point to vitamin deficiency, emotional issues, and a resulting oral fixation that endures to this day. I did not suck my thumb or fingers. Some things were caught by my parents and some were not...surprisingly, I was not punished for eating these things and when the time was taken to explain to me WHY it was not good for me to do these things, I stopped that particular behavior. They never caught the paint or glue..paste..a thick white paste, yep. I ate it by the jar! I eventually grew out of those things, but at 17 years old, I was still sneaking into the fridge and sipping the bottle of Iron Vitamins, but I was careful not to drink so much as to tip off the folks. And Paragoric was a craving so strong in me that I would pretend to have a stomach ache just to sniff the bottle. LOL..grew out of that one too. Had the Asiatic flu and it was my first taste of paragaric...double reason for drinking that stuff...taste delicious and made the most horrible pain ever experienced before or since go away.

Jimmy, I am no doctor and I only speak from my own personal experience of having a PICA. Some of the reason is tactile and taste. A mode of learning that I used to find out about the world. Some of this behavior is from extreme trauma, some is from lack of attention and a certain TYPE of neglect and childhood mis-understanding of what was going on in the minds of the people around me. I lived in what I call "Warrior Mode", now. Survival Mode at all times. Now, I remember what the world was like from a childs point of view.....You could start by explaining to the kid just like he is an adult that understands your words. When that approach was used on me...I responded well. People have the mistaken idea that just because a kid is young, they cannot understand certain concepts about their own wellbeing. Not true. If your child shows signs of being highly intelligent and still does the eating of weird stuff, he could possibly be experiencing frustration intellectually while being emotionally unable to cope with his reality at present. Take him to a doctor or specialist for behavior..and by all means have your kid tested. And if he is really smart, you haven't got a clue what else he is successfully hiding from you that he eats.

Sorry about the length of this comment, but I thought it might help you to decide and be able to get a fresh YOU remember YOUR childhood? As you were, so this child will follow in his own way...but the emotional and intellectual quality should be connected enough for you to look at his situation with fresher eyes. Good luck!

And remember, I AM NOT A DOCTOR. And I am not advising you on an illness. I am telling you of my experience with Pica and what I now know about my, then, behavior.

Karen LaVelle =o)

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the expereince you have shared KV; it is sure to help someone else.

Van Carman 8 years ago

Soap eaters are probably lacking suponins.I understand we can produce our own if our diet has sufficient certain elements.Thus the craving for soap to fill a gap in our biochemical ecosystem.Thanks,Van ( ps some plants contain suponins such as asparagus and yucca root)

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

That's something I did not know, Van - thanks for telling us about it. It makes sense.

Van 8 years ago

Sorry I mispelled saponins.Saponins is the corrct spelling.Thanks,Van

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Van!

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

another nice artricle from an expert

r.W 7 years ago

Hii,, i've bin eatin paper for as long as i can remember, and i am now 18..must of started at like 3/4!! it started of by eatin toilet paper, then yellow pages and nw argos paper =O...i try to stop but cant i jus fink abowt the smell and taste. Only recentli i went to the dcotors after sufferin abdominal pain =''[ this made me really want to stop. The doctors referred me to some man that works with ppl hu suffer addictions..i have not yet attendin the appointment. I am so nuervous!!! Any advice??

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

That sounds kind of scary to see the doctor, but if this is a good practitioner with experience, they can find out if it is caused by 1) diet, 2) chemical imbalance/lack or something similar like a specific protein involvement, 3) genetic, 4) habit, or one of a lot of other causes.

If you crave the smell and taste, it could be a lack of something in your body, or an addition. There is good help for either one. Go with the appointment and tell the practitioner you are nervous. Make him/her explain everything clearly, including how long it will take to recover from this, whether you will suffer withdrawal, alternative treatments, what his/her exact plan and timeline is, etc. demand to know.

Let us know how it comes out. Best wishes!

r.W 7 years ago

ok i will, i have only found out all this 'pica' stuff today

and thank u so much


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Best of success to you. I hope it turns out to be something really simple and easily moderated.

unknown 7 years ago

HI! i have been eating foam from mattresses for 35 started in elem.don't

remember how old i was.the reason for eating foam i was molested in

my mothers long life friend oldest son,he threatned me and ididn't say a word

why you probably ask,my mother was always beating on me or my sister when she was mad at my dad.sometimes i would tell the truth and still get a beating

at first i didn't know why i did it until middle school,then the habit got worse.

i didn't communicate with people much gosh i had no friends ,i couldn't wait

to get home ,i would have an urge,then use a blade or scissors and cut into

my mom and dads mattress i would tear off as much foam as i could while,

every one was busy playing outside or/and watching television. i take it

wash and scrub with hot and coldwater ,then dry it and eat it would me that

night after a bad day at dad noticed that the bed or couch would

be torn,but i would many people torchered me at school and at

home,my comfort and friend was foam,just me and mom caught me

chewing on it and beat me she didn't understand she told my dad he didn't

know how to talk too me or my sisters he didn't know how to love us,he

didn't show any emotion towards his kids or my mom.she told me that i

was retarded and was going to take me to see a physc, she should have,i'd

would have been adopted.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

And you ccould even have a nurtritional decifiency reinforcing the behavior of foam eating, so I suggest seeing a physician - even a free clinic would help if you can't afford it. Peace and all the best to you. 

r.W 7 years ago

hi...again i didn't go to that appointment with the 'addiction man'. i personally just think that i'm just low on blood, as i was diagnosed being anemic (if thats how u spell it :s) a few years ago..i did actually stop eating argos paper for a good few weeks but then turned to toilet paper. I thought that toilet paper would be more un healthy so now im back on the paper =| now my joints are begining to hurt, well just 1 ankle and 1 wrist!

If i ever stop i shall let you and other pica sufferers know.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Interesting. Sometimes herbal teas will clear up the joint pain - usually a few glasses of iced tea. Hope you feel much better!

Becky 7 years ago

I am 35 and i have been eating cigarette ashes since i was around maybe 8years old. It began as like here and there nothing major. Maybe once a month i would just put my finger in the ashtray and take a couple licks. Then around Jan of 2009 i was pregnant and started doing it once a month. Then toward May almost end of pregnancy i would do a little daily. Now my son is 9 months old and i eat ashes everyday all day. I smoke my cigarette then i eat the entire ashes that i got from the cigarette as well as from anyone else who has smoked a cigarette. I seem to eat the ashes nonstop all day long. It is becoming an issue. I am constantly washing the ashtrays because in my mind i cant eat it out of a dirty ashtray, yet the ashes itself is dirty. Can anyone advise as to why i do this or what i can do to stop it. If we have company over i try to rush them out the door so i can go to every ashtray and eat the ashes. My older daughter who is 15 tells me daily how gross it is and to stop, but i just don't know how. I will smoke a cigarette just to get the ashes. Sometimes 3 in a row and not even inhale the cigarette i just want the ashes from it. Please help me figure out why i do this and if its going to be harmful to me with such a large intake of it. Thank you.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

See if your local hospital has a Nurse Hotline so you can call anonymously and ask about it (free, no charge). Aside from that, I'd guess a mineral deficiency based in calcium and other losses that occurs through pregnancy and many other causes (diet, disease, trauma, stress, etc.), but I'm not a physician. Best of success as you battle this!

Lucy 7 years ago

My almost 4 year old daughter has been eating paper, card board, toilet paper, plastic and her finger nails. When she was 2 going on 3 I talked to her ped. about it and she said it was normal, she would grow out of it. She did an iron test and it came back normal. I am now very concerned because she has not stopped and now she sneaks it. I will catch her and she will lie about it. I ask her why she does it and she can't say why. I have been reading about Pica on the internet and it sounds like she might have it. Now if my daughter's doc brushes me off I will persue it further. Where would I go to next? Can anyone give me advice?

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

A four-year-old cannot explain the why of the behavior, especially if it is a chemical imbalance or mineral deficit, can she? I would stop confronting her, as stress can worsen it.

1) See another doctor as a second opinion. Don't use no insurance as an excuse - there are free clinics.

2) Go in to one of the Little Clinics in the grocery stores or Drug Store (like CVS) and ask the Nurse Practitioner on duty about it.

3) Call your local hospital's  free Nurse's Hotline.

4) If you use a daycare, ask the Nutritionist on duty there.

Best wishes!

Van Carman 7 years ago

With our mineral depleted farmlands my guess is that these eating habits may show trace element and mineral lack.On the internet google:saving the planet with gravel dust.It is a real eyeopener.Thanks,Van

Amber 7 years ago

Ok I have 2 step kids, my step daughter used to food steal we explained to her that if she was hungary that we would get her something to eat it went fine for a while and than she started to eat books its didn't matter what kind it was book and paper what ever she could get her hands on, and at the time her lil brother (about 1 yr younger) started doing the same, we finaly got her to stop eating things, but now he is just getting worse, he at a full box of crayons, he woke up in the middle of the night and ate them box and all i found only parts of them in the room, he eats spoap when he is in the bath, he has taken a bite out of a sponge as well as a pumic sponge, i have caught him with dirt, everything we try does not work with him. he is a very slow eater for meals he is the first at the table and last to leave, hardly asking for more tells us when he is full. but i just don't know what to do anymore when it comes to the non food things he is every fast and sneeky about it. and i don't know how to get him to stop. what should i do?

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

I have heard of hostages surviving on the pages of books and the paste that held them together, but it was library paste made of flour and water (so that's foodstuffs and paper is often organic).

The crayons are a problem, because I think the wax buildup might cause a bowel bloackge in future, although I am not 100% certain (but the coloring is likely non-toxic). You may need to go to the emergency room and have this seen to if it happens again. But I recommend seeing your family phsycian or going to a free climic ASAP and asking for help. Meanwhile, please put all non-food items your son might eat up out of reach or locked away. Ask your doctor if it is possible that he was copying sister and got carried away with it.

Happy Easter!

ASH 7 years ago


I have same obsession.

Started when I was a kid. Everyone smoked and at age of 3 or 4 I would lick ashtrays.

Then 6 weeks ago at age 62 I got obsession to do again. STRESS I think. Anyhow I'm hooked. I don't care what anyone say's. IT TASTES GREAT. Don't know what to do. Started takin iron suppliments. Hope it works. Again though. Hooked,IT TASTES GREAT.

Van Carman 7 years ago

An American Indian remedy for arthritis is eating sunflower seeds.Lately some are saying that sunflower seed oil is a sure cure for arthritis.Try this remedy and possibly this might help your pica"disorder".Thanks,Van

Ramona 7 years ago

My son is 35mo old and we have discovered over the last few months that he is eating the paint/plaster off the walls in his room. He has always been very oral. Always something in his mouth and he's very juicy in the mouth. Help I'm about to pull out my hair. He seems to be doing this when he is sent to bed. Or time outs. And the last time which was today was after lunch.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Sunflower seeds taste good, too.

Ramona - see your doctor immediately with your 3-year-old.

Ramona  7 years ago

Thanks patty, I plan to make the appoinment on monday. Do you have any thoughts on why and do you think that it's pica?

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Some lead-based paints taste sweet. that's my first thought.

Tricia 7 years ago

My daughter is 3 years old, and she has been eating strings, pieces of the couch, and fuzzies off of everything since she was about 10 months old. At that age, it's said that it is expected, but not normal, for a child to develop such a habit. She's eaten crayons, play dough, and hair. I'm very concerned, because in your initial examples you said that if your child has an emotional disorder, another distinguishing sign would be pulling at the hair and eyelashes. She does pull on her eyebrows and eyelashes while she's sleepy, and wanting to go to bed. I set her up an appointment to go see a development specialist tomorrow, but I'm worried that he will also tell me that this is just a phase and that she'll grow out of it. I have had her tested for Iron and Lead, and both are at a normal level. She's been wetting her bed a lot more recently than she has before. Does that sound to you like she has O.C.D. or an emotional issue?

jen 7 years ago

i have been eating fag papers for 12 months, i am full of fear i might get ill what can happen to me if i carry on, i am 52years old and am to ashamed to tell my doctor. please help. many thanks jen

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Tricia - You're in a frustrating situation and I hope the developnmental specialist can help you straightforwardly. Psychological-sounding symptoms can be caused by physical conditions, so let's wait for the specialist to comment. Be sure to tell him/her abut the increased bed wetting. That could be very important.

jen - Call up one of the free hospital nurse's hotlines that you can call for initial medical opinions and advice.

Rachelle 7 years ago

i have been eatg about 7lbs of ice a day for about 6months now,i love it i eat it all day no matter what i am doing,its crazy to me but i cant help it,i also love the way baby powder taste and smells,i will literally eat it and then rub it all over my face and smell it until i have inhaled so much,the smell of dirt to me aswell is sooo good,i have not ate it but i am tempted,is this a sign that i may have pica,i am 28yrs old,i barley eat food all i want is ice,ice and more ice.please give me some input to my crazy habits!!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Rechelle - ask you doctor; the ice craving may or may not be a symptom of something besides pica. But, watch your teeth - crunching ice can cause hairline fractures in them.

6 years ago

I have been eating mortar from between bricks since my early teens. I link it to anaemia as i seem to crave it less when i am on irom tablets. Unfortunately i have damaged my teeth more than I had realised-i went to the dentist today and she noticed the wear and assumed I was grinding my teeth at night....and fitted me for a night guard. I find it really embarrasing and it is a real compulsion. I am glad to know that I am not alone though. Apart from my teeth, I haven't had any noticable problems as a result.

Van Carman 6 years ago

Rachelle,Ice eating is a sign of zinc deficiency.It could also point to other minerals being lacking in your body also.I read this in an old Prevention magazine.I hope this helps,Van

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Mimmix - This must be a bit like Aboriginal peoples chewing tree bark and chickle (from rubber trees, where we get the name Chiclets for that brand of gum). My concern right off is that the sponges you show in the pic are plastic and you could be swallowing chemicals from chewing them. Ask your local public health nurse to be sure. Best wishes.


ak 6 years ago

i have been eating sponge from pillows & cushions as long as i can remember what causes these strange cravings

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Hi ak - Seems that many people do this. I now recall that in elementary schools, lots of kids chewed in the rubber erasers that they had. Maybe you can change to chewing gum?

tracy 6 years ago

This is a very serious problem. To the person that said their child has had it for 8 years...take it seriously. My daughter since babyhood has had pica which we thought was normal in a young child and it can be. Then she hid what she was doing and we had no idea until she started having bouts of flu like illness that would go away after puking and diarrhea. We still didn't link it until we started seeing strange things in her vomit. To make an extremely long story short...she ended up having to be surgically cut open to remove a mass from her stomach and while waiting for surgery[God bless the Canadian health care system...not!] her bowels perforated as well. We were in the Stollery Children's hospital for 10 days and it was the most horrific thing we've ever been through never mind what my poor baby endured. She was 7 years old at the time. She ate everything from magnets to tape to plastic to cloth and especially stuffing [like from a couch cushion type]. A little boy on her bus eats hair and she told him why he shouldn't after what happened to her and the mother just said "Oh, that's just a thing he does". It can be very serious, more than I ever thought until our family went through this ourselves.

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Rayalternately 6 years ago

Interesting article. As a child I ate worms, mud, pencils, and all sorts of other things for an extended period, so there was a resonance there and I enjoyed the read.

27 yr old foam eater 6 years ago

I can remember eating erasers, crayons, and candle wax during my childhood. Once I got in middle school I saw my older brother take a piece of foam from a cushion and eat it. He said, try it. It's good. From that point on I have been addicted. I have eaten cushion out of the couch and out of the car. I have eaten alot of foam. I hear people say that its because of an iron defeciency. I have tried to increase my iron but that makes me very constipated and deters me from wanting to take it. I love the tast of foam, but I just cant stop eating it. Until recently I felt I was the only one in this world that struggled with eating non food items. I want to get help but I am soooo embarrassed.

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Anyone know what cushion foam contains as ingredients?

tissue eater 6 years ago

hi, i have been eating toliet tissue for so many years now and i have noticed that it's only the scotts brand like soft but thin and at one point in time it would only be four sheets but now it has become so much more like i can wrap eat the amount thats wipeable... i have also noticed that i can stop for a couple of months then start right back up i feel that now it just comes on if i am stressing or depressed... i don't do it at work or while i am wit my boyfriend well come times it depends on the tissue but to make a long story short i have been doing this since i was about 1 yrs old my mom said and now i am 25. but i was wondering if anyone knew if it can prevent me from having kids or any long term damage? i also think it could be causeed becuz my iron is very low i am always cold... but i do eat everyday breakfast lunch and dinner and i have also notcied that i eat the tissuse after breakfast lunch and dinner or if im thinking to hard about something(stressing)

please give me some info i would like to have kids

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

See your doctor right away and ask him or her about this situation. I don't know the contents of bathroom tissue, and it may be harmful, so find out from a professional. Best wishes.

Rachel h 6 years ago

I have a major problem.... I love eating cushion from mattress, seats, and where ever else I can find it. I crave for it all the time it makes my mouth water.

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Several people have written in about craving to eat this foam cushion material. It is likely chemically based foam plastic of sorts. I'd ask a doctor about it - wonder if it can cuase intestinal blockage after a while?

Kim 6 years ago

Very interesting!!! I have just entered the health care field as an medical assistant. I came to learn about this after hearing that a patient of ours ate soap ever day for the last 2 yrs. I thought that not possible. But after reading this I know that this disorder really exist. I will pass on what I have learned. Thanks for the knowledge!!!

nicki987 6 years ago

yea i started eating foam cushion whatver its called out of couches beds where ever i could find it when i was about 7 or 8. i started with chewing on my shirt but i was like it tastes so good i want to eat it. the taste the smell the texture i swear they put crack in it lol.but yea when i was 10 i started eating the cushion rollers for hair then the couches then my bed i went through a bunch of beds and other peoples beds. its embarrassing i want to stop so bad but i cant help it i've been doing it for so long it's like i crave it all the time it tastes really good but my stomach hurts oh by the way i'm 18 years old...but yea my mom hates that i do it and other people get mad when i cut their bed or couch. i just don't know how to stop i try stopping but the cravings come back i hate this and my stomach hurts and i[['m always blloated it suck!!!

jack 6 years ago

Its not a serious problem, but when i see solid foam i.e like stuff in sofa, i really want to eat it, but im not sure if its safe, when i feel like i want a bite of it my throat goes really weird but i when i see a foamy substance i can't resist it. Its not like i do it ever day. perhaps once a few months, i just want to know if its safe to eat . . .

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

I think it is not safe, because the foam is made from chemicals.

web j 6 years ago

At 54, I have the same pica regarding cigeret ashes, as well as other burnt things (toast, popcorn, wood, maatches). A few years ago I was diagnosed with Gitelman Syndrome. It is a renal tubular disorder than causes malabsorption of electrolytes and other nutrients, mostly potassium and magnesium. When I am highly stressed (lately I experienced the loss of a parent, three 20 year old pets, and went throug a difficult divorce, and menopause) I turn to the ash tray, much to my own disgust. I suspect a mineral deficiency, even though I take vitamins and liquid potassium as treatment for the Gitelman's syndrome. As a kid I would eat dirt, chalk, graphite, and slate rocks. I suffered abuse at various times in my life. Possibly this is a mixture of a psychological and a physiological disorder. I wish I understood it. Is it possible that ashes contain potassium?

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Some ashes do contain potassium and/or other elements that might stand for postassium in a body's quest for chemical balance. I am sorry for all of your losses, especially so close together in time.

When you have a craving for ashtray ashes, walk away and do something else or call a friend. Some support of this nature may help.

Best to you always.

web j 6 years ago

Thank you for your kind words, Patty. And thank you for the work you provide helping others.

Supremegermalene 6 years ago

I just came on here as I'm at my wits end with my daughter. Since a baby she has eaten all sorts of things, twigs, mud, hair bands, eats all types of crayon, I just caught her eating a tea light, she eats paper, foil, string, basically anything you can think of! She's 3 in December 2010 so should have grown out of putting things in her mouth by now. She ate the tea light after polishing off a bowl of vegetable soup! I'm glad I've found a name for it...

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Kids eat all sorts of things all the way into the First Grade, including Elmers Glue, paste, and pink erasers; and they chew their pencils - not all kids, but many do. Some of it is very dangerous.


Foil and string are dangerous to eat, because that can obstruct the bowel. A sharp folded foil edge might penetrate (cut or puncture) the bowel as well. Rubber bad type things can osbtruct the bowel. Crayons and tea light can gather up into a mass to obstruct the bowel.


Call the doctor and see what he/she thinks is up. Is she teething? Twigs, crayons, and tea lights might have something to do with that. Just a thought.

By the way - in first grade, some of us chewed erasers because they were stamped "Gum Eraser" and we thought they meant chewing gum.

catherine comerford 6 years ago

thank you so much for all the postings on here my son who is 19 now has been eating rubber bands it did start off when i had a breakdown in 2006 and it was erasers then he has recently found his real dad and his twin brother has told me today he has been eating rubber bands as he shares a room with him he does this at night i am now so thankful as to you all and have some understanding why he is doing this and taking him to the local gp tommo i think he does have this disorder known as pica thanks again everyone.

Johnni 6 years ago

I have a 2 year old daughter who has been eating these things for about 6 months now string, cotton,hair,toilet paper, foam from mattress of our bed everthing she can and on the string an hair an things they get caught up in her poo I have only seen these things in dogs an cats till my daughter started eating this stuff an getting bound up I have not taken her to a doctor but will defenitly be calling them now that I see it is common hoping they don't over look her problem

Carlos 6 years ago

I never heard of Pica until today... well, I'm 50 years old and I have Pica. I do not ingest anything I just chew whatever I grab, napkins, pencils, pens, anything plastic, my own T shirt. When I notice it';s been minutes or hours that I've been chewing. I drop a pen on a dirty floor, in no time i completely forget it is dirty and I have it my mouth. My partner calls me a retarded 2 year old when he sees me eating my T shirt while I watch TV. i guess I need serious psychological help....

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Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

It would do no harm to ask a counselor or your doctor about it to see what it's all about. It might even be a dental issue of some sort. You're certainly not "retarded" and I think the comment was abusive.

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adrienne2 6 years ago from Atlanta

I have just recently heard of Pica, oddly enough during an episode of House. I was wondering IS THIS REAL? Well you answered my question. Thank you!

colleen 6 years ago

I have been eating foam mattress or couch cushions since I was 19 it started when i was looking for my ring and it falls under the couch with cusions, so I put little bit of cushions and ate it, it felt good to my throat so i started to eat my parents foam mattress, they even had to throw it because it had lots of holes lol and now I am still eating, I can't stop eating nonfood I need help, I got 2 kids now and I am afraid something might happen inside me, but I cannot stop eating foam mattress, out of bed, couch or even dolls please help me

Pat 6 years ago

As a child I would always chew toilet paper. I would rub the soap with the toilet paper and chew it. I would be times when I would chew two rolls of toilet paper a day. I never knew what was wrong with me. My mother cried one day because we didn't have much money, and I was causing her to buy toilet paper. I was so embarrassed. I never heard about PICA until about a year ago. I've grown out of PICA, its been about 10 years now, but it is amazing how people are still struggling with this disorder.

gloria 5 years ago

i just tried TO google my problem to see if it exits with other people and i found this page. i have a problem of eating sponge and iam 20years old. i eat sponge all the time allday and no matter what food i eat,how tasty the food is,how much it satisfies me or how expensive it is i usually still have the desire to eat sponge,it is becoming real serious now and i want to stop,plz help for advice

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Eating lightweight sponge made of plastics or rubber seems to be an addiction - or at least, not very filling. Perhaps these contain chemicals the body thinks it wants. The first step is to ask a medical professional like a Nurse Practioner, Doctor, or similar.

Van Carman 5 years ago

Soap dramatically lowers water surface tension.I think eating soap (through this action) helps our body cells hydrate more efficiently.I would suggest using edible soap to be on the safe side.See, you soap eaters were on the right track.Thanks,Van

Heather Clark 5 years ago

Hi, I'm not sure but I have the suspicion I have PICA.

I've eaten some weird things as a kid. none of them are too alarming but I feel they may be clues. Since I was a kid I would eat ice, uncooked pasta, gum, and I chew on plastic (I've even broken my last baby tooth on a lego).

But now I'm 18 and I still do all of these things. The big problem though is that I eat sunflower seed shells. Some people think this is still food but they hurt. It doesn't digest and it cuts me when I use the restroom. Yesterday I bled pretty heavily from it. And I can't stop. If I'm focusing really hard when I eat them I remember to spit out the shells but I'll quickly forget. And I think all the extra sodium in my diet is giving me high blood pressure. I almost fainted the other day when play-fighting with my boyfriend. I'm 18, I shouldn't be feeling this way.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Ask your doctor, but in the meantime, change to sunflower seeds without shells, unsalted.

On another note, I teach my martial arts students that play fighting is never a good idea. Why would you fight physically with someone you love? No fighting is "play."

meli-melo 5 years ago

Hi, my daughter is 23 months old and eats a lot of things she shouldn't..exp. chack, rocks, sand, dirt, paint chips, rubber,dog food we gave her away but she ate it everyday had to feed the dog outside, the list goes on..what's wrong whit her?? thanks.mel!!

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I hope that it is not lead-based paint, because it's poisonous. Call your doctor immediately.

meli-melo 5 years ago

No, gladly its not but its the amount and things she eats that bothers me the most,ill take her to ER doc.cause theres a big waiting period for a peds. and i don't want to wait no more..thanks for the feed back!!!

Caring 5 years ago

Greetings all, hope you are all well & finding solutions. Can empathise - crayons, baby powder, chalk & have been anaemic. Please try coconut, yellow ripe dates or carrots as a food alternative. If you like the taste of dry, astringent type things they could help & are good for digestion. Sure there are other considerations such as coconuts being supposedly fattening but at least they are natural. Also try foods high in iron such as green bananas, look for recipes. Please feedback & best of luck.

Sara 5 years ago

What do you think about one year old that eats everything, food and non food (chalk, pet food, paper, etc.) Just always hungry.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Sara - Well, babies and 1-year-olds get to know their environments through placing things in their mouths, so it may be curiosity instead of hunger, but call your doctor to make sure. In the meantime, try to kleep things out of his or her reach.

Sara 5 years ago

I know it's normal for toddlers to put things into their mouths, but he really just seems to be hungry all the time. If I go anywhere near the kitchen he is right there hanging on my leg screaming for food. He crys most of the time. The only time he seems happy is when he's eating. I have other children,and in my gut this just doesn't seem right to me, but everyone including his doctors just say to feed him a balanced meal. They can't possibly understand how hard it is not to just give him food to stop the crying. He doesn't just stick strange things in his mouth to test them out he really eats them. As an infant he couldn't keep things down and had problems with constipation, now he eats as if he's starving.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Sounds like it may be either behavioral (habit) or something very wrong with the digestive tract or some other body system. If he cries most of the the time, something is wrong. Call another practitioner for a second opinion or call a local Nurse's Hotline, such as those offered free at hosptials. You need some type of help and I don't know which, but best of success to you in finding it.

Kelly 5 years ago

I have been eating foam rubber for many many years! I love the taste, smell and my mouth waters for it. I do have low iron and take pills for it. Even when my iron is at a good level I still crave to eat it. It is so weird. I am sorry for all of you that have the same problem. Maybe some day someone will understand why people like it so much.

moi 5 years ago

My mom used to chew on stones for as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago, her docotor gave her iron supplement pills and now she doesn't eat the stones anymore, and she says that the feeling of fatigue she used to have all the time is gone.

I have always loved the smell of mud after the rain and the smell of wet cement has always been really mouth watering.

When I was 11 (I'm 17 now) I would pass by me neighbours house and for some reason the smell fo his driveway on a hot day would make me want to eat it. I'm not sure what type of tar he had on his driveway cause all other driveways had no effect on me, and I could tell by looking that he didn't use the same tar as everyone else (maybe it was paint?).

One day I noticed that the driveway was cracked so I broke off a piece to take home with me one day after school. I cleaned it and then took a bite out of it while trying to avoid eating the tar/paint, but that part came off anyways. I chewed on the little piece and to me it tasted fantastic but I spit it out when I had crushed it all. Over the next year, I would break a small piece of the driveway and chew it.

When we moved to a different city, I would get cravings for that little piece of driveway, but there was nothing I could do to satisfy it. One day my dad bought us a new brand of erasers and whenever I would use mine, the smell of it would make my mouth water, and sometimes I would just sit there and sniff the eraser. I finally gave in, washed out the eraser and ate a piece of it. I guess my dad didn't like the way the eraser worked cause he never bought it for us again.So now, not only did I have cravings for the pieces of driveway, but also for that eraser.

Around that time, my little sister was in the 2nd grade, and she brought home one of the Pink Pearl erasers they got in school for art class. I had never encountered a Pink Pearl eraser but the moment I used it, I had a craving for it so once again I washed it and then began it chew it down bit by bit, but eventually, I chewed on the whole eraser and didn't know where I could find another. (As a side note, to me the Pink Pearl tastes much better than the first brand of eraser that I chewed on.)

since the cravings for my old neighbours driveway persisted, I figured that maybe any rock will do, so I started to taste some other rocks but found that they didn't crumble the way I liked when I chewed them and they had no taste. Eventually, I chipped a piece of the stone wall of our house and I knew I had found a replacement for the driveway.

When I first went to high school, I decided to turn over a new leaf and went a whole year without eating any non food items although the cravings were still there, just as strong as ever. I broke my resolve when my sister brought home another one of those Pink Pearl erasers. I figured since I'd given in, I might as well go all out and started chewing on the chipped rocks from the wall. I even tried to chew both the eraser and the rock at the same time (which was as gross as mixing tea with hot chocolate). Eventually, I began to swallow the stones I would chew on. Even today I still do this. I can't swallow the stones if I have a sore throat because it hurts and lets just say that if I eat a rock and don't keep hydrated, there are some painful issues in the bathroom (I learned that hard way).

I also crave permanent markers, nailpolish, car gas and liquid whiteout though I've never actually tried to ingest them (I don't think I ever will). I actually only use whiteout tape and I haven't worn nailpolish since I was about 4 just to keep tempation away.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Smell and taste are the same to me, so I understand being drawn by smells. I've heard there is a type of driveway asphalt that smells and tastes like brownies.

I remember in 2nd or 3rd grade a lot of us chewed pencil erasers off. Our teacher said it was like chewing gum, but not to do it.

alan 5 years ago

hi i am a foam eater too

Kendra706 5 years ago

I desperately need help! ever since i was about 8 or 9 ive been addicted to the foam in mattresses,chairs,couches,etc. I don't know what to do. Ive tried to talk to my family but they wont listen to me. they think i can just stop whenever i want to.ive tried multiple times but i cant stop the cravings.

MichelleK 5 years ago

My preschooler's teacher brought this to my attention today that my 3 year old has been eating sand, paper, and glue in class. I have been lax recently about giving him his vitamins, so I plan to give him 2 vitamins a day (Flintstone gummies) and to also give him 8 oz. of Carnation Instant Breakfast. If 2 weeks of the vitamins and supplements don't seem to be affecting the behavior, then I plan to take him to the pediatrician. I'm a nurse, so I'm hoping to encourage his teachers to journal this behavior so we can determine if it is a behavior or a vitamin/mineral deficiency.

Am very glad I happened upon this page, very informative reading!

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

MichelleK - Yours is a good plan imo.

I saw a playtime cake made in an elementary school class once, combining just those ingredients - sand, paper (shredded), and glue or white paste, rather; then painted to look like a birthday cake. That's probably not a good craft to do, is it?

The sand clues me to the possibility of a mineral supplement, which I had not thought of previously; so that's a good idea! I think I'm most concerned about the glue, depending on its ingredients - and the dyes in the paper. Let me know how this turns out!

Rob Hale, PhD 5 years ago

Polyurethane foam contains high levels of flame retardants (PBDEs) and other chemicals. These may concentrate in your body, affecting the thyroid and potentially infant development. They also accumulate in breast milk and cross the placenta. Please contact me if interested/concerned. e-mail at

Concerned mom 5 years ago

We discovered this week that our 4 1/2 year old son has ingested dried latex paint he picked off of the wall at childcare. He has picked it off of the wall while laying down for nap. I called poison control and they said once the paint is dry that it is non-toxic. Then last night I caught him with a piece of foam in his mouth that he took out of his play table. These two instances are the first that we know of, he tells us he hasn't eaten non-food substances before and that he thought they would taste good. He lives in a stable happy home, no schedule changes, no new babies, no new jobs. I have had his lead levels checked in the past and they were so low they did not register. He eats a wide variety of regular food items. Any ideas?

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Hi Concerned Mom - I don't know what to think about this one. Just a guess, but has he seen other children at daycare with plastic foam in their mouths? I suppose it could also be curiosity about the taste of things, as he says.

Call your pediatrician or family physcian and ask an opinion, just to be sure. Then, I'd start a log record of non-food items he attempts to ingest, where, when, time of day, activity while doing so -- then look for patterns.

Were you able to successfully instruct your child not to put paint and foam into his mouth and has the daycare staff agreed to keep him from eating the latex paint chips? If not poisonous, might not they cause a bowel obstruction if too many glom together in the intestines?

Let me know what you find out. Best wishes for health for your child and your family!

BETTY 5 years ago

hey patty , my name is betty i have been eating soap foam for years and it is something i cant stop eating what do i do

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

That's a hard one. I wonder if you could substitute a food with similar texture? Check with your doctor on your next checkup.

kiara 5 years ago

i have pica and eat cardboard

ibeen doinq it for 2 years now

itold my mom

but she just laughs and dosent

want to qet me help

what do i do / and am 14

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Hi kiara - Go to your school nurse, if you have one, and talk to her/him about it. If you do not have a nurse at school, I hope you have at least one counselor. That person could possibly get help for you, especially if there are doctors that visit the schools free-of-charge. If that fails. Look in the telephone book yellow pages for Hospitals and look for Nurse Hotlines. Call one of these and talk to a nurse.

If everything fails, find a teacher, principal, or pastor to talk this over with. If a parent denies medical care to a child that has a real condition, it could become a legal matter.

Bex76 5 years ago

Harry my 13yr old son went for an elective Camera top and bottom, to examine his whole digestive system. As he's been passing loose blood stained stools for a few yrs. My mum, sister and myself have ulcerative colitis. I made an obvious assumtion that he may be starting with also. I took him to the GP November 2009 and expressed my concerns. A referral was done, appt after appt was cancelled by the trust. He was eventually given a date 12/4/11. He'd been on the waiting list for 18m's +.

I stayed with harry for his admission.Once he was under the general anaesthetic. I went over to the ward I work On as an adult nurse, to get away from the wd & to distract me. The advise was to returning in an 1hr.

Unawares to me at that time.Theatre had been frantically trying to get hold of me (no signal on my wd!) I came bk to see if he was finished early after about 45 Min's. On returning to the wd to be meet by surgeons nurses specialists you name it. They had discovered minutes into the procedure 8 foreign objects including an 8" knitting needle, some 6" pens pencils,felt tips and large wide key rings all in his stomach !!!

They needed permission to move to an open abdominal procedure to remove them all. Which is where we r now really on his long slow recovery, he's had a psych review, they will remain involved, the reason for this post is to get some advise as the whole multidisciplinary mention this condition. I have never heard of this before and still feel shocked by the magnitude of what he consumed. He has ADHD I'm just lost for answer. I wud love some feed bk

Bex76. Xxx

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I have heard before of middle school kids swallowing large objects. I'd get a psych consult right away and and see what comes of that, then talk to him about why he does it. If he does not know and no psych reason reveals itself, stick with the treatment team to look for answers.

Bex76 5 years ago

Thank-you Patty

He was seen by psych in hospital and has been discharged into the care of the community team who have known Harry since his ADHD diagnosis about 8 yrs ago. We (my husband and I) have just been turning over questions/answers and more questions. We just want to keep him safe, this just seems impossible!

Rebecca 5 years ago

My daughter is 6yrs old and has been eating odd things foe over 2yrs now, initially she was eating chalk and dirt from the garden and then this moved onto the brick fire place in our house - it will be a permanent reminder with her little teeth marks in it! She was diagnosed with Coeliacs Disease 18mths ago following the fireplace incident after her iron levels came back exceptionally low which lead to the Coeliacs testing...18mths later and after observing a totally Gluten Free Diet ... she's started again! Chalk, Dirt, Pencil Shavings and Rubbers. Some one has mentioned Pernicious Anemia to me which like Coeliacs is an autoimmune condition ... I forgot to mention ... she;s Type 1 Diabetic too diagnosed at 3yrs old so that two autoimmune conditions already - please don't tell me she going for a hat-trick?

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Hard to tell since there are so many things gping on agt once, but please consult the pediatrician as soon as you can. Pencil shavings smell good to a lot of kids, so that could be part of it. So do scented crayons, if she begins to chew on those as well.

A lot of us chewed on erasers (rubbers) in grades K-3, but we got tired of it.

Best of health to you and your child!

Van Carman 5 years ago

You soap eaters may find relief in yucca root found in Mexican Markets.Yucca contains saponins(soaplike molecules)Saponins lower surface tension of water in your body,hydrating your cells better,giving you a good feeling.I hope this helps.sincerely,Van Carman

Linda 5 years ago

I have been reading the post about pica, I am sure my grand daughter has this. She eats string, foil, cotton, paper, coins and many other items. My husband and I were discussing this tonight and recalled once when she was an infant (she's 7 now) my daughter changed her diaper and her bowel movement was so dry it crumbled like powder, the doctor dismissed it. I wonder if this has something to do with why she eats everything. She is very tiny but, eats pretty well breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. I am beginning to get very concerned. Thanks for all the information I have received from this post.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Yucca root sounds like it could be an effective aide.

The dry crumbling excrement, if continual, sounds like a problem, but I'm not a pediatrician. My class mates and I were chewing erasers and such until about age 7 or 8. If the eating of coins and other non-food does not stop soon, call a Nurse's Hotline at your local Hospital and ask some questions.

Lady M 5 years ago

All the comments are very insightful. I crave soap sometimes, especially when my emotions seem to be running rapid. I've been eating it for about 10 years and after reading some of the post, it could be linked to iron deficiencies and anemia (excuse my spelling) both of which I have. I am going to try the yucca fruit and see what else has sapponins that will compensate.

Thanks again to everyon

Van Carman 5 years ago

Yucca Root found in Mexican Markets.Other plants have saponins but some of them are toxic.You probably should try the yucca root.Mexicans cook and eat them like potatoes.Thanks,Van PS,THC found in marijuana is also a saponin

dmdixon08 5 years ago

hey im 21 and i have been eating foam since i was about 9 years old i have no clue why i been doing it but for sum reason i cant stop i eat it after every time i have a meal i have went through numerous of beds but i juss cant get enough of it i wish this would go away

Sharon 5 years ago

I have been eating paper and cardboard for my whole life I am now 25 I don't know how it started but I know I just crave it and I eat it at this age I have a bad skin condition and sores all over my head and behind my ears I don't know if this could be coursed by my eating paper but I need help and I don't know what to do

paul 5 years ago

My daughter is 23 years old and recently sustained a head injury. Before her injury we would often find evidence of her eating dirt. Bags of dirt, dirt in places there shouldn't be dirt. Prior to the accident she lived on her own so I have no idea if she continued this practice. She now lives with us as she needs 24 hour supervision. Just tonight while watching a movie with my wife she ate almost an entire pencil. I checked and I don't think there's going to be any issues, but man oh man, what can we do? I'm going to bring it up to her doctor (which we've already done, but she hasn't said anything about it. I will however bring it up tomorrow!). So what do I do? She continues to find ways to sneak eating dirty: Wipes her hand on the car when she walks by. Bends over to pretend to adjust her shoes and picks up dirt. We always say something and wipe off her fingers, etc., but obviously we have to watch her like a hawk! Sigh. Any ideas are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

WOW! Thanks to eveyone that has shared their stories.

There seem to be some major cravings out there besides the usual paper: 1) ashtray ashes, 2) plastic pillow/matress foam, and 3) dirt. I am guessing it becomes a habit to eat and then the body becomes somewhat addicted to the chemical makeup of these substances.

Paul - I am sorry your daughter is still eating dirt. Some Doctors need to be more active with pica treatment. Insisting that he/she do something effetive for your daughter is a good step and you may have to do it loudly. Keep asking until he answers you and refuse to go on to a next topic until an answer is had.

I think perhaps if you keep monitoring your daughter and stop her eating non-food things for enough weeks, the cycle might break (worth a shot). But keep at the Doctor for help. Contact the nearest medical school and ask for help in understanding what is haqppening and what to do.

Ny favorite last resort is to contact TV news crews like our "6 on Your Side" that go in with cameras and ask on national TV, "Why won't you help these people?" Most patients give up too easily, but I have a feeling you won't.


Stark 5 years ago

Hi, I'm a 15 year old girl and i have been eating cigarette ash for roughly 8 years.All mu family smoke so it's eacy access.It started as a dare from my younger brother, but I got hooked,I google my problem to see if it will have any effect on my health.Im worried because I can't seem to stop and I was wondering if you would have any advice for me.:)

chandrika 5 years ago

i am 32 yrs old still addicted to eat brick pieces , sand , chalk pieces , rice etc fromt the age of 10 .. I could not control myself if i want to consume them .. i used to take it daily . after i take that i feel very hungry . Nowadayss i been getting pain in my stomach . i feel guitly to consult doctor . can any one suggest what are the tests to take to check my organs are good or afftedcted .. pls help me

marsha 5 years ago

Hello, i have a bad habbit of chewing motar between the bricks of houses or buildings. I grind my teeth with it. I have damaged my teeth by doing so. I do it to help relieve tension, and depression. I have been doing this ever since i was a teenager and i am 29 years old and i still do it. I need help. I read one comment above and i thought that i was the only one in this world that had this problem. anyone have any advice? I also chew ice as well to help relieve me

Sarah 5 years ago

I am wondering whether my 25 month old has pica – he chews dirt, feathers, grass, fluff, dust and hair all the time but he doesn’t swallow it, just holds it in his mouth until we notice and take it out. Do pica sufferers always swallow what they eat? He gets angry when we take a hairbrush away from him and he hasn’t finished putting all the hair in his mouth, and seems to prefers to chew on fluffy non-food items than eat proper food, although he does generally eat normally too. I am going to mention it to our doctor, but any advice would be appreciated.


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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Many people seem to be chewing on brick and mortar, as well as cigarette ashes and a medical professional should be consulted about this.

Sarah -- I suggest keeping all combs and hairbrushes away from your child when not in use, placed on a high shelf or in a cupboard behind a door where he cannot see them. The feathers, dust, and hair particularly can carry mites, bacteria and other concerns. Then speak with your phsycian as you plan do do.

Best wishes.

Marie 5 years ago

I eat paper and plastic, specifically candy wrappers. I usually eat plain paper that has not been written on yet because I don't like how the ink turns my tongue and teeth blue. Sometimes I chew the plastic candy wrappers so much that I start choking on the parts that remain and have to spit everything out. Its getting pretty bad. I always eat some form of paper (preferable) when I am studying or alone in my room. However, I now occasionally get urges to eat paper in front of other people. For example, I really wanted to eat paper in the library yesterday. The problem has become so bad that I often eat paper that I do not think is important and when it becomes important, I have to lie and say I threw it out, when really the truth is that I ate it. I would see a counselor but the truth is, I'm not sure if I want to stop. Paper and candy wrappers are way cheaper than actual snacks and more abundant. Eating paper has been a part of my life for the past 13 years or so. I recently told my mom about it and she did not believe me and I have not shown her. I eat healthy and I am normal otherwise. I am not super stressed out either. I guess it is just a habit...but it is getting worse and I don't know why.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Some candy wrappers smell and taste better than the product they contain. But I hope you are not pulling paper from trash cans.

Kelly 5 years ago

My son peels and eats the paint off the walls and i know its not lead based paint so that don't scare me but my apartment looks horrible now and i can't get him to stop! He only eats dry food right now and is going through speech therapy because he is almost 3 and not talking. I'm at a loss for what to do next and how to help him, I just want my son to be healthy and eat more then dry stuff!

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I think a physician or speech therapist would be able to use that info that your son eats only dry things, including paint, at age 3 and not talking. Some paints smell a little like candy or cake frosting, so that might also be it. It will be a lot of follow-up and work, but I might suggest firmly taking him away from the wall every time you see him begin to peel paint, since he's too young to self govern this yet. A tall play pen would be great, but he would find a way out at this age.

I wonder if the texture of "dry" is important or if there is some overarching condition that includes not talking and eating only dry things? You might ask the speech therapist and pediatrician if it's all connected, but there may be no connection and at least you'd know.

Does he drink liquids? I suppose he must to survive. Given that, then "dry" foods may just be a passing preference.

Kelly 5 years ago

He drinks allot of milk every day,He don't really drink other things some time water but rarely.The speech therapist thinks that his not talking yet has to do with him not eating moist wet things that he don't really understand how to put his mouth to say words due to not eating things that aren't solid. We just moved though so he hasn't met with the therapist in this state yet so I'm not to sure what their plan is yet but the home visits should be starting soon! I hope that they can help him! We do pull him away with louder voice not yelling but raised enough that he knows but he still goes back again and again,but we are still trying and working at it every day and will for as long as he does it.

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Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

At least the milk is giving him nutrients.

I am really bugged by his eating only dry things now and wish he could tell you why he won't eat moist or wet foods. How about ice cream or cut up fruit? Maybe he does not like those sweets either.

I wonder if there is a structural condition in the mouth cavity that a doctor or dentist cound find to change? It sounds like the inside of his mouth is inflexible. I suppose the speech therapist could see that - or does that therapist look into the mouth at all? Well, with a new therapist to be seen, you might ask all these questions soon and find out.

Let us know how it goes. Best wishes to you!

Cassie32 4 years ago

My son will soon be turning 8 and recently he has been peeling paint off of our walls in stairway and my bedroom and his and I actually saw him put a paint chip in his mouth and he also chews on paper. What does this mean?

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Maybe nothing, but call your Pediatrician or your local hospital's Nurse's Hotline and ask.

Crystal 4 years ago

Hi my name is crystal and I am 15 and I have an addiction on eating mattress foams I don't know how come but I had eating it ever since I was little and I want to stop but I can't. Is there anything that will happen to me? Or any kind of problem?

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I think the materials in the foam, especially chemical, could be harmful. In addition, these items can sometimes cause intestinal blockages that require surgery.

Tasha 4 years ago

My son is 6 and ever since he started crawling he has been putting EVERYTHING in his mouth(my 8yr old and 3yr old daughter are the complete opposite)

He has eaten half a hard cover Disney book, stickers of toys, soap, paint chips, food off the ground, we found teeth marks on his horizontal blinds and pieces missing, took him to the hospital, he had a few pieces in his stomach (traveled without any problems) they said it was a "phase" we also found him when he was about 4 with a mouth full of screws, chews on wood, erasers, pens, plastic and pretty much whatever he can find.

This is getting very scary for us, I have talked to 3 Doctors and they all say it is a "phase". After seeing all these comments I know I am right.

He is VERY VERY active! I don't think he has an ounce of fat on him, that is another thing I want the Doctor to look at! How do I make it any clearer to our Doctor that this is NOT phase and I need help?!

kate 4 years ago

my friend eats foil how can i help her.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Tasha - A mouthful of screws does not seem to be a phase to me. Seems you need a second, good, opinion. At this point, I'd call a well-known children's hospital and ask for an opinion - many have Nurse's or Doctor's Hotlines for questions. In Ohio, Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Cleveland's Rainbow and Babies Hospital are fantastic, also Nationwide Children's in Columbus.

Alternatively, you could call the Mayo Clinic. I have always trusted them.

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Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

wow.. I did not know all this.. I don't remember having this problem.. I might have.. Just don't remember except for maybe erasers.. I really liked reading it..thanks for writing and sharing... very interesting article. very useful.. voted up...

Kulliee 4 years ago

hi, im 15yrs old and ivebeen eating cardboard and paper ever since i can remember. Its relieving that im not the only one from lukking at this article! Um... Is it bad eating cardboard? I have really badd cravings and i just don't no wat to do. Wen i stop myself, i start biting my nails. Wat can i do to stop, does this habit harm me in any way??? Thanks

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Kulliee - Call your local hospital's free Nurse's Hotline if there is one and talk to a nurse - or a school nurse or someone at the local Health Department. Cardboard is not the worst thing you could chew, but eating a lot of it could accumulate a wet ball in your intestines and cause a deadly infection.

I chewed on erasers like Deborah did - a lot of us did that. It lasted with me only about a few months in Grade 3. I got tired of having eraser stuck uncomfortably between my teeth.

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laringo 4 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

I recall watching TLC channel and the program was about adults that eat things like toilet paper, wood,and a host of other things. These non-food items can cause serious damage to your body's organs like the kidneys and liver. Parents if they notice signs in young children should get them help asap.

Kulliee 4 years ago

thank u, my mum found out and she sed she'd book the doctor appntmnt (the up side...) but its a bit embarrasing saying to yur dctor, hi, i eat cardboard and paper and rubber and eat the end of my pencil (which im stopping because of the fear of splinters), wat shall i do? Freaks me out thnking abt it =S

Also wat is a wet ball, i tryed googling it, but i couldn't find anything, i just want to no wat it is and the symptoms, and thanks again, (=

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Kullee - By a wet ball I mean that the cardboard can go into your stomach and intestines and not digest it can make a wet ball of mushy cardboard that can build up larger and block the intestines. This might cause pain, swelling, infection (fever too) and might even need surgery to correct.

It sure CAN be embarrassing! - but tell your doctor you are really having difficulty not chewing on those things and ask for his or her help. A good doctor will take you seriously and be sympathetic. Let us know how you are doing!

Kulliee 4 years ago

Okai, thank u very much and will do =)

Vepuu 4 years ago

Hi im 19 years old and i have 1 problem im eatng sand i can't go a day with out eatng. This startd when i was 15 years. What's that nw hw cn i stop this?

Kulliee 4 years ago

so i tried to follow ur advice, tryed talking to my school nurse, well that failed epically, made me feel even more stupid that i origionally feel.

Started off as a casual convo and when her respone was 'ino wat ur on abt, personly i thnk that thay are just mentally tapped, hnestly there are some mental people around'

So i thnk il try my GP next hoping he/she will me more... Empathising, understanding and helpful.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Kulliee - It's bad that it's so hard to get someone to even listen! You'd think the school nurse would help. Maybe the GP will be better.

Vepuu - That's heavy stuff to eat; do you eat any food?

P. R 4 years ago

I've been eating the burnt ends of matchsticks. How does this affect our organs or our general health. Please let me know.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Probably depends on what chemicals are in the match head and how many you consume. Likely there is sulfur and several other chemicals. Too many match heads will make you sick after a while.

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moonlake 4 years ago from America

Interesting hub. I didn't know that's what it was called.

When I was small I ate crayons. I ate any kind of wax. Like the canning wax mother used.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Oh yes! - before chewing gum became popular, people chewed canning wax all the time. No problem. If the crayons are non-toxic, little problem there unless a child would eat a whole box and get blocked up. Cheers to you!

Ghost32 4 years ago

Patty, I love your writing but disagree with your statement about OCD claiming, "only a licensed doctor (or) therapist can diagnose that".

It's a personal issue. Neither my wife nor I are licensed, but 98% of the time it's been one or both of us--NOT the licensed doctor or therapist--who has initially, correctly diagnosed her various and numerous ailments. The vast majority of the time, we've had to tell the licensed professional, "We believe THIS is Pam's (latest) problem; check it out please."

[Got a chip on my shoulder against paper proof of competence; can ya tell?]

That said, I'd never heard of pica (except as a typeface) until reading this Hub. Great info...and it triggered a memory.

My final go-round in college was at Montana State U. in Bozeman. In the married housing apartments, we all got along despite the population density...except for one couple across the street from us and down a bit in a nearby building.

In the dictionary under "jerk", it says, "See that guy."

One day a number of us in fine spring weather noticed their two-year-old (if he was that) out alone on the sidewalk...eating earthworms he was finding in cracks in the sidewalk. None of us intervened; the child was in no immediate danger, the father would have ranted at us for even going near the kid, and besides, to us (half a dozen or more observers) it was sweet if juvenile revenge.


But not pica, I guess. Earthworms are food after all.

Rated Up and Several.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Earthworms! hahahaha. Cute.

And well, I've helped prosecute some folks incorrectly diagnosing others without a license and causing big, big harm. In those cases, too bad it was just a misdemeanor here until the 4th time felony. I would have hanged them for the amount of damage they did - BUT doctors need to listen to patients about their opinions on diagnosis. Patients know themselves better than doctors do. That's not like diagnosing somebody else and they die as a result - An unlicensed dentist did that here in the 1970s and a woman died. At the dentist's office. Bad track record on dentists here.

Ghost32 4 years ago

Got it. Understand that (the bad track record on unlicensed dentists). I avoided LICENSED dentists as much as possible, back in the day--can't imagine the challenge of facing an unlicensed one of those.

On the other other hand, there's the damage some of the licensed practitioners do. As a commercial insurance underwriter in the early 1970's, I handled (among other things) a book of business that included professional liability insurance for physicians. When a "really bad" doctor would become known to be in our region, we'd get notified--so we didn't stupidly and accidentally insure the guy (at that point, they were all guys).

The worst of the lot was a California surgeon who'd left the state on a high lope with 32 outstanding malpractice claims and/or lawsuits on his record.

He ended up in "my" territory for a while, too, actually practicing medicine in southwestern Montana. But--fortunately--none of our agents ever sent us an application for him, so that was good.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

That's pretty bad! There are some lousy doctors out there and I have met some. I think I know 2-3 good ones.

I sometimes joke that I went into preventive medicine in order to prevent doctors :)

P.R 4 years ago

Important!!! just found out that injesting the burnt ends of matchsticks is very dangerous to your health. It is called cautopyreiophagia and leads to a condition called hyperkalaemia which can cause cardiac arrest.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Yikes! - Thanks for that warning, PR!

Sez 4 years ago

I'm 6.5 month pregnant and have eaten paper in the last couple of months. Funnily enough my recent blood test suggests that my iron count is very low so I have to take supplements. Thank goodness there is a cause! As it isn't that satisying!

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

That is important and interesting news! - Thanks, Sez. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

kelleyward 4 years ago

When I worked as a pediatric nurse I had patients who ate cotton. They often had anorexia which is included in the OCD type disorders. Very interesting hub.

random reader... =D 4 years ago

so one of the main reasons of pica is iron deficency..... Is there any other reasons?

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

kelleyward - I'd not heard of that one before, so thanks!

random - Many, many reasons. Each case may be different.

Grandma Laura 4 years ago

I craved ice in my teens and early 20's. I was anemic too, but the underlying problem was Celiac Disease. Once I eliminated all wheat, rye, barley, and oats from my diet I no longer craved ice at all.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I wonder if that speaks to hormone changes?

concernedmommy84 4 years ago from Linden, North Carolina

my 8 year old pulls out her hair strand by strand and eats erasers,metal off the penicles,glue,crayons, but her favorite thing is paper. I have got her in counsling and work with her dr. very closly. She has been diagnoised with adhd/add,ocd, and pica since the age of 5 yearsold. We still have not figured out why she does it but we keep trying.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I recently saw a broadcast with a physician that believes pica is an addictive behavior that can be erased by replacing the eating of non-food items with behaviors that are more positive. However, I don't know how he does this. I believe the who was on CNN and may be on that website.

Karen 4 years ago

I've had a craving for ice for about a month now. I sat on an 8-hour flight to France and had to ask the flight attendant (multiple times) for a glass of ice because the craving was so bad but I just thought it was funny... until 3 days ago when I noticed how good my bar of Irish Spring smells. I just wanted to lick it!!! I decided not to and I fought the urge to lick my soap until my shower this morning. I couldn't take it anymore... I just had to taste it, so I did! Tonight, the craving is back and knowing that I have never had an addictive personality, I decided to Google "why do I have the urge to lick my bar of soap" and I came upon this blog! I have never heard of Pica before tonight but I sure am grateful that I decided to check up on why I have this weird craving... Now I can follow up with my doctor and take steps to "nip it at the bud"! Thanks for sharing!!

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Irish Spring surely smells good, though :)

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Carla Louise B 4 years ago from Bracknell

My 16 month old is getting tested for pica she eats everything in sight! and has been down A and E many times as she has eaten loads of different objects! when we sow our consultant he said to ME he wanted to test her i didn't even know anything about it! they have taken a blood text for vitamin, calcium and zinc deficiency. im trying to find out more info on it

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I hope the test reveals something that the medical staff can address easily. I first heard of pica in a college class in which we were discussing malnutrition in the inner city, but it doesn't seem that pica is about malnutrition. Best of luck to you and your family!

Patty Lavine 4 years ago

Patty it is truly an honour to know now that i am not a freak of nature, eating all this non-food products has been a blast, but it is now of the past.

thank you

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thank you for sharing your experience! I hope you are having good meals now.

Linda 4 years ago

M 30 yrs old bt i crave for my fingers & nails d problem is i dnt suk em i chew dem i used 2 eat pens bt nw its ma fingerz n its affecting my earz n i've been 2 doctors twice wit because of my ears help m how do i stop d cravings my fingers r so ugly dey hv marks becoz of d chewing bt i cnt stop d cravings plz help.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

If you are serious, please find a medical specialist that knows about your disorder. Try calling your local hospital or the state medical board for this information and a referral.

Vanessa Malefahlo 4 years ago

I have a problem with crayons and pencils, I eat them all the time, and I'm afraid I will never stop eating them, I am 20 years old and this has been going on for years now. Nobody at home knows that I eat crayons. Its killing me and I hate that.

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

People used to chew paraffin wax before there was chewing gum - I think crayons are mostly wax and vegetable colors these days and safe in that way, but eating a lot of them can make a ball of wax in the intestines in some people. Lots of people chew on pencils, but eating a lot of wood is probably not safe. What does your doctor say of all this?

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Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Note about borax, in case you are told you have a deficiency by a friend -- From health agencies worldwide: Borax is a toxic substance and poses an unacceptable risk to human health when used in food.

Cassandra1993 2 years ago

Hi patty, I am 20 and suffer from pica I mainly eat sponge foam, I've eaten mattresses, couches, kitchen sponges, car washing sponges but my favourite at the moment is melamine sponge I just can't get enough of it. I buy 200 packs off eBay constantly. I stopped eating foam for about a year but I can't stop now. I are foam through out my whole pregnancy and my child came out perfectly fine. But now his eating solids I want to stop Incase he try's to copy mums behaviour

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Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

Eating these light foam sponges reminds me of eating fast food - people eat and, not satisfied, conintue to eat more of it. I've added a video about sponge eating to this article.

I am hearing a lot about individuals eating these foam type materials and wonder if they contain some addictive substance. After you speak with your doctor about eating sponges, you might want to call one of the many addiction counselors that are available today. Best wishes!

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Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

UPDATE: After checking the recent studies, I find that melamine (sponges, etc.) is a non-food protein that has been illegally added to some foods in the past. Heavy ingestion of it can cause bladder cancer as an end result.

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tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York

Surprisingly I missed this hub a while ago. It seems to me this problem has become more noticeable and probably is on the rise in the last 20 to 30 years. It always existed but seems to be worse now.

Thanks for all the helpful information. It is certainly a distressing problem.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

@tillsontitan - Agreed; I also see it becoming worse, so its not our imaginations, I think - larger percentages of kids and adults seem to suffer form it. So many people tell me they eat the malamine sponges and furniture sponge material! I hope the substance is no longer in any of our food.

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Marcy Goodfleisch 2 years ago from Planet Earth

I've know. Several people who had pica. It was sort of an unspoken observation I made, and was awkward to be around (yucky, too).

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Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

I've known some and most were kids eating lead paint chips; we could stop then and have the paint removed from those houses through city block grants. This problem seems to be growing these days - especially with sponges.

sandra 2 years ago

i had and do have pica. wax, paper, wood, string, plastic, foam ... not really too sure why ... maybe anxiety, the chewing seems to calm me, maybe nutritional deficiency as well ... it has improved since i have started to eat vegetables (i will only eat them raw, i prefer a harder texture). And have been taking medicinal herbal teas.

I also believe i have a bit of ADD and mild autism ... but all of my 'symptoms' can be alieviated by proper nutrition and calming environment. At least, they minimise immensely in these conditions ...

it may help to keep a diary as you say, to see patterns and times of triggers, etc.

I find chewing on licorice root is very satisfying, it is wood, very tasty and delicious, prevents cavities, nourishes the brain and eliviates stress. think this may help kids very much too as it is high in nutrients and they generally love it.


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Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

@sandra - It is good to know that your techniques work for you and I think that they can help others. Substituting useful and good-tasting food items for non-food items is, in my opinion, much better than attempting to treat the symptoms with drugs. I will share these tips with as many people as I can.

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Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

Pica is still a bothersome eating disorder, but not without effective management and cures in many cases.

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Jason Faith 22 months ago from Grand Rapids MN

ty, very interesting article.

Che 11 months ago

I am 34 and i am HOOKED on Foam hair rollers! Not just any kind, but they have to be Goody brand! It started as a child and i would stop when I run out, but then i would see them in a store and start again. Its shameful, no one knows, i snack on them and tell people its licorice when they ask what i am eating. It has a cardboard taste to it, that i LOVE! It also helps me poop! Its gotten so bad, that I order rollers off of ebay! I can eat a pack of 37 in a few days. I try to stop, but I can't! Just glad to know that I'm not alone

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Patty Inglish, MS 11 months ago from North America Author

@Che - I hope you never have any ill healty effects from eating those rollers. Lots of people say they enjoy the flavor and texture. Too bad real food doesn't have the same!

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    Patty Inglish (Patty Inglish, MS)6,756 Followers
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