Horrorpedia: Pica

Greetings fiends…

There has been so much going on here at Rune Morgan Horror and my haunted abode that the archive has seen quite a few additions. Today, I am starting a new blog post routine that will hopefully allow the posts to broaden in topic once again, not that there is anything wrong with bringing you great classics day after day. From now on my posts will be written at night, allowing me the day to work on writing and social haunting. And with so much going on it is easy to work up quite an appetite. But what to eat? Maybe we should ask some people with the condition known as pica… What’s that? Why, it’s the next installment of Rune Morgan Horror’s Horrorpedia.

The term pica is an Anglo-Latin word that means magpie. So how did a disorder of any kind come to be named after the birds pictured above? Well, magpies have a reputation for being very indiscriminate eaters. Well, they are described as “opportunistic omnivores,” meaning that they eat plants and animals… but also non-food items such as garbage as well. For this reason, the word came to mean cravings as well.

Stomach contents of a psychological inpatient with pica.

Pica is a disorder in which a person has an appetite for non-nutritive substances. Clay, chalk, dirt, and sand are some of the most common substances a person with this condition may consume. Some researchers believe that lack of nutrients in a body, particularly in women (especially pregnant women) and children, can cause someone to develop this disorder. It was first recorded in medical texts around the year 1563 and in 19th century southern United States it was common among slaves.

It is currently recognized as a mental disorder and the little research conducted on it suggests it is caused by mineral deficiencies in the body. In fact, it is found that many people with pica are eating items that contain the very mineral they are deficient in (such as iron). Recently, pica has been tied to the obsessive compulsive spectrum of disorders. Treatment for it comes in many forms, from discrimination training between edible and inedible items to physical restraints. But if you think clay, dirt, and chalk are bad, here’s some of the other practices a person with pica my participate in. (continued)

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Some people with pica have been known to practice:

  • Trichophagia: consumption of hair or wool
  • Lithophagia: consumption of pebbles or rocks
  • Urophagia: consumption of urine
  • Hyalophagia: consumption of glass
  • Mucophagia: consumption of mucus
  • Coprophagia: consumption of feces

There have also been cases in which a subject with pica have committed self-cannibalism. Now, you can only imagine some of the problems that arise from this: lead poisoning, hairballs that our digestive tracks cannot process, or Toxoplasma/Toxocara (parasites) infections from eating soil or feces.

My thanks go out to Rune Fiend, One Sick Puppy, over at the Dead as Hell Horror Podcast for suggesting this appetizing topic for entry into Horrorpedia. If you readers have not checked out his show, please do. He provides a great podcast with honest reviews about horror movies many others don’t explore. Remember, if you liked this post to please use the buttons below.

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