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Eating things that aren't food (Pica)

Hello Sam, I’m a 13 year old girl and I think something is wrong with me... I crave food that isn’t food such as chalk rocks dirt and lipstick e.c. Yes I have eaten chalk, grout, dirt, lipstick, lip balm, dry wall and pieces of wall that I destroyed half of my bedroom wall to eat. I liked it and I feel confused as to why I am like this. I have been researching it and there is something called pica and it is when people are addicted to eating things that are not food. I may have this but I’m not sure.

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Sam

Hi there,

Having thoughts or cravings about eating things that aren’t food is called Pica. It can be hard to understand why you want to eat things that don’t have any nutritional value and aren’t needed by your body. Whatever type of craving you’re having it's important to see your doctor to work out what’s causing it.

Eating non-food items can be dangerous as they can be toxic to your body or could harm you in other ways like causing an infection or by causing damage your teeth. Food cravings of any type, including craving eating things that aren’t food, can sometimes be caused by a lack of something in your body, like being iron deficient or because of changes in your body like hormone changes. At other times they might be connected with how you’re feeling or can be related to other problems with eating.

If you have a urge to eat something that’s not food you should talk to a trusted adult, like a parent, carer, school nurse or contact a counsellor at Childline for support and help. If you or someone you know is worried about having eaten something that isn’t supposed to be eaten, you should always get medical help by calling NHS 111 or going to the Accident and Emergency department at your local hospital.

Sometimes a person on the autism spectrum might experience pica, and that could be for different reasons - like not understanding which items aren’t edible or wanting to find out about the texture or the taste of something.

I hope this advice has helped and remember that help and support is available from our counsellors if you want to talk.

Take care,

Sam

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