pica

Pica ( ) is characterized by an appetite for substances that are largely non-nutritive, such as paper, clay, metal, chalk, soil, glass, or sand. According to DSM-IV criteria, for these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more than one month at an age where eating such objects is considered developmentally inappropriate, not part of culturally sanctioned practice and sufficiently severe to warrant clinical attention. There are different variations of pica, as it can be from a cultural tradition, acquired taste, or a neurological mechanism such as an iron deficiency or a chemical imbalance. It can lead to intoxication in children, which can result in an impairment in both physical and mental development. In addition, it can also lead to surgical emergencies due to an intestinal obstruction as well as more subtle symptoms such as nutritional deficiencies and parasitosis. Pica has been linked to mental disorders and they often have psychotic comorbidity. Stressors such as maternal deprivation, family issues, parental neglect, pregnancy, poverty, and a disorganized family structure are strongly linked to pica. Pica is more commonly seen in women and children, and in areas of low socioeconomic status. Particularly it is seen in pregnant women, small children, and those with developmental disabilities such as autism. Children eating painted plaster containing lead may suffer brain damage from lead poisoning. There is a similar risk from eating soil near roads that existed before tetraethyllead in petrol was phased out (in some countries) or before people stopped using contaminated oil (containing toxic PCBs or dioxin) to settle dust. In addition to poisoning, there is also a much greater risk of gastro-intestinal obstruction or tearing in the stomach. Another risk of eating soil is the ingestion of animal feces and accompanying parasites. Pica can also be found in other animals and is commonly found in dogs.