Pica Disorder Treatment in Adults: Which Options Work?

Pica is a disorder that compels individuals to consume non-food items, such as dirt, paint, or ice. This disorder may seem harmless, but the reality is that it poses a significant threat to one’s overall health and well-being. Long-term sufferers of Pica are at risk of severe medical complications, including lead poisoning, intestinal blockages, and even death. Thus, adults with Pica must seek effective pica disorder treatment and consult medical specialists.

This blog post will delve into the various pica treatment strategies available for adults, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. It is paramount to work closely with a medical professional to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses the underlying causes of Pica. So, if you or someone you know is grappling with Pica, read on to gain a deeper understanding of the options available and how to secure the assistance you require.

Pica Disorder

The Eating Disorder That Makes People Crave Non-Food Items

Pica is an eating disorder that compels individuals to consume non-food items like dirt, paint, or ice. The truth is that this disorder offers a serious threat to one’s general health and well-being, despite the fact that it may initially appear harmless. Pica is commonly observed in children and pregnant women, yet it can also affect adults. The exact prevalence of Pica in adults is unknown, but studies suggest it may be more prevalent in adults with developmental disabilities or intellectual impairments.

How to Recognize Pica

The diagnosis of Pica is typically made by a mental health professional or physician, who will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the individual’s medical and psychological history and a physical examination. The diagnosis is based on persistent cravings and consumption of non-food items for at least one month and ruling out any other medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms.

A Traditional Practice vs. A Dangerous Eating Disorder

It is worth noting that Pica is not always a disorder and can be a cultural practice in some communities. However, if it is causing harm or putting an individual’s health at risk, it is considered an eating disorder, and professional help should be sought.

Pica Diagnosis: What to Expect and How it’s Done

First, a healthcare professional will take a thorough medical history of the patient, including any cravings or symptoms related to non-food items. They will also inquire about the patient’s overall health, searching for any underlying medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies.

During the physical examination, the healthcare professional will look for any physical indications of Pica, such as discoloration of the teeth or skin or the presence of non-food materials in the patient’s stool. They will also check for any signs of anemia, a potential complication of Pica.

The results of laboratory tests can be used to confirm a diagnosis of Pica. These tests may include a complete blood count to check for anemia, as well as tests to detect the presence of heavy metals or other toxic substances in the patient’s blood or urine. Additional imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI can also be done to check for any gastrointestinal or brain abnormalities.

Once diagnosed, a treatment plan will be created, which may include addressing any underlying medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies, as well as providing counseling and therapy to overcome the cravings for non-food items.

It is important to note that Pica is often related to underlying psychological or developmental disorders, such as autism, intellectual disability, or mental health issues. Therefore, treating the underlying disorder is crucial for managing Pica.

Pica Disorder Treatment Options

How to treat Pica eating disorder

The treatment of Pica typically employs a multifaceted approach, including mild aversive therapy, behavioral therapy, medications, nutritional counseling, and medical treatment.

Mild aversive therapy for Pica disorder treatment

One effective Pica eating disorder treatment is mild aversive therapy. This treatment of pica eating disorder exposes the individual to a mild unpleasant sensation, such as a sour taste, when they attempt to consume non-food items. This therapy can help to reduce cravings and the frequency of pica behaviors.

Behavioral therapy and differential reinforcement

Another effective treatment for Pica in adults is behavioral therapy. A therapist works with the individual to identify the underlying causes of Pica and develop strategies to change the behavior.

Differential reinforcement is a method of behavior modification that can be employed as a crucial component of an all-encompassing treatment plan for Pica. The technique centers around the reinforcement of positive behaviors whilst concurrently decreasing the reinforcement of negative behaviors, ultimately leading to a shift in the patient’s behavior and a decrease in their yearning for non-nutritive substances.

Pica Disorder Treatment

Nutritional counseling

Nutritional counseling can also help treat Pica. Pica can often indicate an underlying nutritional deficiency, such as iron-deficiency anemia. Nutritional counseling can help identify deficiencies and provide recommendations for a balanced diet.


Medical treatment may also be necessary if a person has ingested something dangerous for the body. This could include detoxifying the body or surgery.

What else does Pica eating disorder treatment involve?

Pica treatment options may also involve working with other specialists, such as a dietitian, occupational therapist, or primary care physician, to diagnose any underlying medical or psychological conditions contributing to the Pica. Treatment must be tailored to the specific needs of each individual.


In conclusion, Pica is a mental illness that causes sufferers to crave non-food substances like ice, paint, and dirt. Although this disorder may appear unimportant at first, it actually poses a serious risk to one’s general health and well-being. Long-term Pica patients run the danger of serious medical issues like lead poisoning, intestinal obstructions, and even death.

Therefore, adults with Pica must seek effective treatment options and consult medical specialists. It’s important to understand that complications associated with Pica in adults can include poisoning, blockages, infections, anemia, and malnutrition, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

It is essential to work with a professional to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of each individual. Mild aversive therapy, behavioral therapy, medications, nutritional counseling, and medical treatment can effectively battle Pica in adults treatment. These strategies can lead to reduced cravings, a change in behavior, and addressing underlying causes of Pica. Therefore, if you or someone you know is grappling with Pica, it’s important to seek assistance to ensure the best possible outcome.