What are the causes and symptoms of the eating disorder Pica?

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mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The symptoms of the eating disorder Pica are easy to see as they involve eating substances which are not food long after the baby stage of putting anything in the mouth.  The substances may be as simple as ice or as unappealing as dirt.  The causes are far more complex.  Tension in the form of family disorders, mental health issues in the patient, stress in the family have all been linked to the disorder.  Eating disorders have often been linked to issues of control where the patient has no control over their lives, and eating is one place where control can be exercised in defiance of the parent or doctor trying to change what is happening.  Having been a teacher in both middle school and high school, key symptoms were hiding the body in baggy clothes, a student with authority and control issues, and athletes who chewed gum continually.  Often these students would be struggling with eating disorders, and Pica, though difficult to hide in most instances, was accepted if the problem was chewing ice.  Ice can be particularly destructive to the mouth, teeth, jaw and stomach. So if friends are alert, Pica can be discovered and the student helped with this unusual eating disorder.