Entries in Pica (4)


New York City Woman Addicted to Eating Deodorant

Courtesy TLC(NEW YORK) -- For Nicole, a 19-year-old from New York City, life revolves around her addiction -- she eats deodorant, about a half a stick a day.

"When I wake up in the morning, I want deodorant; after each meal, I eat deodorant; when I get stressed out, I eat deodorant; in the middle of the night when I wake up out of a sleep, I want deodorant," Nicole said on a TLC show that aired recently, My Strange Addiction.

Nicole said that she first started eating deodorant when she was 4 years old, but the habit escalated two years ago into a full-blown addiction.

She takes the cap, scoops a solid, waxy taste from the deodorant stick, and swallows it.  She said she prefers certain "rich-tasting" brands over others.

Nicole did not want to speak to press about her craving for deodorant, but there have clearly been health consequences, including stomach cramps, and her doctor has expressed concerns.

"It gets really sore and my mouth gets really dry," she says on the show.  "But at the same time my mouth is watering because I am craving it.  I take deodorant everywhere I go."

Deodorant contains aluminum, which her doctor tells her can cause dementia, seizures or even death.  But the physical worries are only part of the problem.

"Nicole has a process addiction," according to Mike Dow, author of Diet Rehab and TLC's psychologist consultant.

"Many of them fall under the umbrella of impulse control disorders, and some may have elements of OCD, depression and anxiety," he said.  "There's no diagnostic billing code for many of these strange addictions."

They can be as powerful as compulsive addictions to shopping and to gambling, Dow said.

"My brain tells me, 'You have to eat it,'" says Nicole.  "I tried giving it up for a week but got really sick and I bad headaches. ... When I realize I'm out of deodorant I panic.  My anxiety goes crazy and I get really aggravated.  Without it, I'd be a totally different person."

Dow said eating deodorant isn't going to kill Nicole "as fast as heroin."

"But ingesting chemicals and preservatives over the long-term may lead to increased risk of cancer or other digestive disorders," he said.  "These addicts often need a wake up call to be confronted with the consequences of their behavior which often helps them to create change."

When people turn to non-food materials, the condition is known as pica.  Those eating drywall or toilet paper may have the craving based on a mineral deficiency.  But sometimes the behavior then evolves into a way to "self-soothe and manage anxiety," said Dow.

Pica is seen more frequently in young children, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  An estimated 10 to 32 percent of children aged 1 to 6 have these behaviors.  The name pica means "magpie" -- Latin for the bird who will eat anything.

Animal feces, clay, ice, paint, sand and hairballs have also been reported, according to NIH.  To fit the diagnosis of pica, the patient must have ingested it for at least a month.

Pregnant women can sometimes have odd cravings for non-food objects, such as ashes, laundry starch, hair, coffee grounds, even cigarette butts.

In adulthood, these unusual cravings can be triggered by lack of certain nutrients, such as iron or zinc.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Woman Suffering from Pica Eats Rocks

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- “Mmm-hmm, yeah.  They crunch on my teeth,” said Teresa Widener while eating her favorite snack -- rocks.

The 45-year-old mother of two who lives in Bedford, Va., and works with special-needs children, explained: “I like that it has an earthy flavor.”

Widener doesn’t wash them; sometimes she just sucks off the dirt.  Other times, she takes a hammer and smacks them into bite-size pieces.

It’s a behavioral and/or mental-health condition called pica, the Latin word for magpie, a bird that will eat anything.

“People will eat anything when it comes to pica,” said Dr. Jordana Mansbacher, a clinical social worker and therapist who specializes in eating disorders, including pica.  “They will eat toilet paper.  They will eat fabric.  They will eat carpet.  They will eat paper.  They will eat wood.  They will eat clothing.  They will eat skin.  They will eat metal.”

Widener said rocks were an emotional crutch, but she also said she has anemia and that the rocks help treat her iron deficiency.

Anemia is fairly common among women, especially pregnant women, according to Mansbacher.

“Pregnant women tend to be anemic,” said Mansbacher, because their nutrients go straight to the fetus.  “And a lot of times they develop cravings … for ice, which is rich in zinc, and soil and clay, which is rich in iron.”

But around the world and even in parts of the South, Mansbacher said, even non-pregnant women crave and eat soil because of iron deficiency.  Widener is not pregnant and said she has been eating rocks for more than 20 years.

While the practice shouldn’t be hidden or stigmatized, Mansbacher said, eating rocks and soil is unhealthy; it can introduce parasites, and rocks can puncture or tear internal tissue, causing bleeding.

“I suggest that a woman have a blood test to determine if there are any mineral or vitamin deficiencies,” Mansbacher said via email.  “If there is a deficiency,  I would then ask your M.D. for a treatment plan to include vitamin or mineral supplements or an alteration in one’s diet.”

Watch the full story on 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rare Condition Drives Girl to Eat Light Bulb

Natalie Hayhurst suffers from a rare condition called Pica that creates a never-ending compulsion to eat things that aren't food. (Courtesy The Hayhurst Family)(TERRA HAUTE, Ind.) -- Natalie Hayhurst looks like your average adorable 3-year-old. She plays with makeup, loves Justin Bieber, and loves playing with her big brother on their farm outside Terre Haute, Ind.  But when it comes to food, she's anything but average. Most kids her age are a little picky. Natalie likes everything -- literally.

"Well, I first noticed it was a problem...[when] she had actually eaten my vinyl blinds that hang out to cover your sliding door. She took two bites out of them," said Natalie's mother, Colleen Hayhurst.

Natalie suffers from a rare condition called Pica that creates a compulsion to eat things that aren't food.

"She prefers the wood, paper products, cardboard, sticks," said Colleen. "She'll eat rocks, dirt; she's had a bite out of a Diet Coke can; she's eaten the little magnet out of the shower curtain, plastic bottles, toys."

"You can't take your eye off of her, 'cause if you do she knows it, and she'll try to eat something when she knows you're not looking," said Colleen.

In February Natalie was rushed to the emergency room after eating a light bulb.

"She had moved her entertainment center and pulled the light bulb out of the night light while I was doing dishes," Colleen said. "She was in bed; I assumed she was asleep. She had eaten all the glass. I was pretty much hysterical."

Doctors performed surgery to help remove the glass.

When Colleen took Natalie to the pediatrician for a checkup and explained what was going on, the doctor, Dr. Lily Dela Cruz, knew this was something that went beyond typical toddler behavior. She referred them to a developmental behavioral specialist.

Although Pica is more common in young children -- more than 10 percent of kids aged 1 to 6 are believed to have some form of the disorder -- adults are not immune.

Pica is the Latin word for magpie, a bird that will eat anything. Doctors say these unusual cravings can be triggered by a lack of certain nutrients like iron or zinc. Some with Pica crave the texture of some materials in their mouths.

In the case of Natalie, who has a healthy appetite for regular food, Pica is thought to be psychological. Pica is a symptom of autism, but Natalie has not been tested for the condition. She does suffer from insomnia and ADHD. As she gets older, she understands more what she is doing is wrong, but she can't seem to help herself.

In addition to working with a therapist to curb her cravings, at home Colleen sprays Natalie's tongue with a sour spray that helps satisfy her constant need to put things in her mouth. Natalie also chews on biting sticks. And she has what her family calls her Pica Box full of textured toys that stimulate her senses.

Colleen is reaching out to help other mothers and their children in this predicament.

"There are nights I have cried myself to sleep, because you feel helpless," Colleen said. "My kids are my world...and I care about helping other people who are in the same boat as me."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pica Eating Disorder: Florida Mom Eats Sofa Cushions Like Candy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BRADENTON, Fla.) -- Adele Edwards has an unusual eating disorder: she consumes couches like they were candy, going through seven sofas in the last 21 years.

The Bradenton, Florida mother-of-five has a condition called pica, which more often affects young children and pregnant mothers.  Her non-food item of choice is the foam inside the cushions.

"I unzip the cushions and snack on the foam inside," Edwards. 31, told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.  "And once I start I just can't stop.  But now doctors have told me that if I carry on, my addiction will kill me."

Edwards said she chomps down a throw pillow each week -- reaching for the foam about 15 times a day.  She said her craving for foam becomes worse when she is stressed.  She added that she likes the flavor and texture and sometimes rubs it in dirt before eating the foam.

Pica is a pattern of eating non-food materials, such as dirt or paper, and is seen more frequently in young children, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  An estimated 10 to 32 percent of children aged 1 to 6 have these behaviors.  The name pica means "magpie" -- Latin for the bird who will eat anything.

In adulthood, these unusual cravings can be triggered by lack of certain nutrients, such as iron or zinc.

To fit the diagnosis of pica, the patient must have ingested non-food materials for at least a month.

Treatment for the eating disorder includes first addressing missing nutrients or exposure to toxins like lead.  Then, specialists address behavioral and family issues.  Mild aversion therapy followed by positive reinforcement for eating proper foods can also be successful.

Complications can include bezoar, a mass of indigestible material that is lodged in the stomach or digestive tract or an intestinal obstruction and sometimes lead poisoning or malnutrition.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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