If you find yourself eating objects that are not considered food, you might be suffering from pica. Pica is a condition that mostly affects children, but some adults also struggle with it. Two of the most common things adults consume is clay and dirt. However, you might also consume fingernails, hair, plastic, wood, chalk, wire, strings, and paper. A common disorder that can cause pica is obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The Role of Your Physician
You must consult with a physician before beginning your treatment. You may be suffering from health disorders that are the result of your diet. You may be suffering from nutrient deficiencies, and you may need to take vitamins to recover. If you were consuming substances that contain lead, your physician will check levels of lead in the blood.
Common Therapy Techniques for Patients with Pica
A common way to avoid pica is to use distractions to keep you from thinking about the object that you intend to consume. Then you can slowly build a habit of not consuming that object. You may also be given a reward for not consuming the non-food item. Talk to your doctor to learn more about psychotherapy for pica.
More Intensive Treatment Options Available
When conservative treatments are not effective at stopping pica, there are many more intensive treatments available. One option is a day treatment or partial hospitalization. In this case, you will spend part of the day receiving treatment. You will either receive your treatment at a mental health treatment center or at a mental health hospital.
Voluntary Residential Treatment Options
In some cases, you may need to live at a clinic while you recover from pica. If you are admitted into a residential program, you will stay in an unlocked facility and will be allowed to leave whenever you choose. However, depending on how severe your condition is, you may be forced to stay on an inpatient basis.
When You Must Stay on an Involuntary Basis
An inpatient stay is when you must remain at the hospital on an involuntary basis. This would occur if you would be considered a danger to yourself as a result of your eating disorder. The goal is to stabilize you, which can take several days to a week. After you have been stabilized, you will transition to a lower level of care. Pica and other behaviors associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder can put you in danger, but with the right treatment program, you will be able to overcome this compulsion.