Pica

Since I am researching pica for an article I’m writing, I thought I would post the very first thing I wrote about pica. Way back in July of 2012, I wrote this Facebook note:

 “A week before her 3rd birthday, Krissy was diagnoised with Pica. Pica is characterized by persistent and compulsive cravings (lasting 1 month or longer) to eat nonfood items. Krissy eats paper, crayons, chalk and lotion on a regular basis, sometimes to the point of throwing up.

As a mother, the diagnosis comes as relief that her eating behavior is not something I did or didn’t do. It’s also worrisome because it’s not something that can be cured overnight and there are little treatment options and no guarantee of success. It may be something she outgrows or has to deal with into adulthood. I worry about her going to school. I worry about her trying something toxic. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to call poison control.

Punishing her for eating non-food items does little to deter her, because the drive to eat nonfood items is so intense. We talk often about how food helps to be healthy and helps us grow and be strong. She understands paper (her favorite) can make her choke (because it’s happened more than twice).

She seeks out the stuff she craves. The lotion hidden in the back of a closed tub under piles of other stuff is no match for her.

Pica can be associated with mineral deficiencies and medical conditions. Krissy has neither. Although it would be easier to treat the primary condition, I am thankful she is healthy. Right now, the goal is to learn to cope. The doctor has suggested giving her a fiber supplement to help keep her fuller longer. I have also started keeping Krissy-friendly foods available on the bottom shelf of the fridge for her to go get by herself when she wants to eat something.

Here are some good articles if you are interested in learning more.

http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/pica.html#
http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/welcome/conditions/pica.html”

 

Krissy is now 4 1/2. We have seen some serious improvement. It looks like (and I’m crossing my fingers!) that she will grow out of it. We have identified some triggers- mostly stress and disruption to routine. She started preschool last fall and now that it is part of her routine she no longer eats her worksheets or her art projects. Her teachers have been wonderful.

I’ve learned that it isn’t necessarily the paper or lotion she wanted. She was craving a certain texture in her mouth. (Pica can be a texture too, not just a substance!) When she goes for paper, I ask her what she needs to eat. She is learning to tell me she wants/needs something soft and smooth or something cold (those are her two picas). She eats a lot of yogurt! She also likes rice and pasta. I try to keep cut up fruit and veggies available in the fridge that she can help herself. Dinner can be difficult sometimes during a pica episode, but we are managing.

We have been working on other ways to help get her frustrations out. Chewing gum, jumping, giving her time by herself in her room (not a time out, sometimes she just needs to be away from a little sister!) have all helped. Sometimes a simple redirection is all it takes.

There isn’t much more information out there then there was 2 years ago. Pica is still a poorly researched, poorly understood eating disorder. I am hoping more awareness comes to pica.

 

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