What is pikacism: causes, consequences

One of the eating disorders is called picacism. The essence is a craving for indigestible substances. This pathology is often diagnosed in children or pregnant women. This seemingly harmless problem may be fatal in the case of neglected correction or cause harm to the patient’s overall health. About why such an addiction occurs, how it is associated with the hormone that controls the feeling of satiety – leptin, how to fight it, you will learn from the article.


  1. General information.
  2. Causes of occurrence.
  3. Dangerous consequences.

General information

Picacism in Latin means “magpie” – Pica. It is believed that this bird is completely devoid of a sense of taste. Today, experts know many variants of similar diseases, for example, an addiction to eating the earth – it is geophagy, there is also an irresistible craving for washing powder, baking soda, building materials, rust, wool, feces. Statistics are silent on the prevalence of the problem, as patients with these eating disorders rarely see a doctor. They are embarrassed about their dietary preferences.

The list of inedible substances that a person seeks to consume at all costs is constantly growing. This includes toothpaste, shoe polish and even plastic. Washing sponges are eaten by soaking them in delicious jams or sauces. In general, it is almost impossible to get accurate statistics and reliable data. But it is easy enough to suspect food perversion: the desire to devour something inedible must haunt the patient for at least a month. Occasional occurrence of exotic desire is not taken into account.

In pregnant women, such perversions are generally considered a variant of the norm. Every expectant mother encountered a desire to eat something unusual, but the fear that such desires may bring harm to the baby, makes them control themselves, albeit with great difficulty.

Causes of occurrence

In children, eating inedible things is also considered by specialists as a variant of the norm. The desire to try everything on the tooth is natural for kids. The task of parents is to make sure that nothing dangerous gets into their mouths. But if attempts to eat inedible substances take a long time, it is necessary to consult with a specialist. It is possible that this is a symptom of an emerging pathology. For example, autism or mental retardation often debut with pickacism.

The trigger for the urge to eat indigestible things is a deficiency of certain nutrients in the body. For example, iron or calcium. Therefore, if picacism is suspected, the patient is sent to a laboratory, for routine blood tests. In addition to, micronutrient or vitamin deficiencies, an eating disorder can be the cause of an eating disorder. Schizophrenia, for example. Sometimes a heavy psychological trauma becomes a trigger. Another option for the formation of addiction is a symptom of a disease with a background deficiency of minerals due to their insufficient absorption. Anorexia is another trigger of the pathology – anorexia.

Patients are so afraid of gaining extra pounds that they try to consume everything instead of nutrients that the body simply can not assimilate. Note that all digestive disorders are affiliated with the hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells and controls the feeling of satiety. Any fluctuations of it in the blood provoke overeating, which in the non-edible part can be potentially dangerous to the human body.

Of course, it is necessary to distinguish true picaresque from the delusions that arise in mental disorders. in this case, the person sincerely believes that eating non-edible is a solid benefit and even a way to heal (urine).

Dangerous consequences

Eating inedible food can be really dangerous. First of all, it is a deficiency of minerals and vitamins with damage to the digestive tract, dystrophy of internal organs and tissues. Often there are many poisonings accompanying picacism. For example, eating stained plaster, paint or enamel in the diet can be a trigger for heavy metal intoxication and can be fatal. Sometimes eating non-edibles provokes them to cumulate in the intestines with the development of obstruction. The same applies to eating hair, wool, which form dense formations in the stomach – bezoars. If their size becomes critical, there is a blockage of intestinal patency.

Many inedible foods are nothing more than toxins. Their accumulation in body tissues contributes to the formation of tumors of various localizations. Another complication of picacism is secondary infection. When swallowing soil, clay, feces, spores, bacteria, parasite larvae and viruses enter the body, which provoke serious pathologies.

Sometimes sharp objects are swallowed, which causes damage to the integrity of various parts of the digestive tube, provoking life-threatening bleeding.

That is why it is necessary to consult with specialists: a therapist or psychiatrist in case of abnormal cravings for inedible substances. The doctor, after a detailed examination of the patient, will choose the best ways to correct the pathology that has formed.


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