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Unusual Eating Disorders

What's on this page


    Pica is a type of eating disorder in which people have unusual cravings and ingest non-food items such as paper or soap. This occurs in people with anemia or zinc deficiency, during pregnancy, those with developmental disabilities, as well as people with epilepsy. It is mostly seen in younger children however it is also seen in adults. Pica disorder can vary in severity of items craved, ranging from ice cubes to feces or dirt. One show, My Strange Addiction, tells the stories of those who have the compulsion of eating household items such as kitchen cleanser, soap, laundry detergent, and toilet paper. Psychologists work with those on the show and offer education on the damages of ingesting these substances, the affect their disorder has on family, and present solutions. The causes of Pica are unknown but factors that increase a person’s likelihood to develop strange eating habits are malnutrition, diets, cultural influences, nutritional deficiencies, and mental health conditions. Treatment for Pica varies and is not always successful. Certain people have just stopped having cravings after a few months while others struggle with Pica for a longer period of time. If the disorder is related to iron deficiency anemia, iron supplements, as well as other medications, may help curb the cravings. Although there is no specific test for Pica, there are tests that can be done including hemoglobin and lead level testing.

    Other Eating Disorders

    Another show, Freaky Eaters, displays a different kind of strange eating habits. People on the show receive rehabilitation through the help of a psychotherapist and nutrition specialist for their troubles with specific food or certain food groups. This show talks about the emotional baggage that comes with these food addictions and demonstrates how food can be an addiction, just like alcoholism, and is used as a means to cope or to escape. While struggling with the wreckage of a divorce, stopping a favorite sport or passion, or the stress of being a parent, those on the show learn how to add pleasure and meaning into their lives without the help of food and learn that they don’t have to feel hopeless or alone anymore. Like other addicts, the subjects on the show don’t always realize the ramifications of their food addictions and how it affects their health and other loved ones.


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    Eating Disorder Treatment

    Many people cope with feelings by using food. For example, after a break-up some turn to food to drown their emotions. Others struggle with food addiction in a more severe way. To help recover from strange food addictions, 12 step programs with the focus on food addiction and compulsive eating have been recommended. There are also treatment centers that specialize in eating disorders as well as counselors, therapists, and other doctors. If you suffer from a strange eating addiction or eating disorder, seeing a physician is recommended. During the visit, the doctor can examine the extent of damage food addictions may have caused to your health. There are numerous treatment options available if you or someone you know is suffering from a strange eating disorder.