Pica Eating Disorder Treatment in Los Angeles, CA


Any time a parent faces a medical crisis related to their child, they want to get swift, effective care immediately. When their teenager faces the challenges of a pica eating disorder, they need professionals trained to treat eating disorders in the adolescent population. Trellis Recovery Centers offers a transdiagnostic approach in our treatment that sets the stage for teenagers to learn about their eating disorders and overcome them. Our family-focused care teaches families to come together with the common goal of understanding their child’s illness and recovering from it.

What is Pica Eating Disorder? 

Pica is an eating disorder that causes a person to compulsively eat unusual items that have no nutritional value and are not consumed by the average person. The name pica comes from the Latin name of a bird species called the Eurasian magpie. This type of bird is known for eating multiple unusual items. 

Items a person with pica eating disorder may consume include:

  • Cotton
  • Dirt
  • Clay
  • Coffee grounds
  • Hair
  • Pet food
  • String or thread
  • Soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Chalk
  • Paper
  • Rocks
  • Paint chips
  • Cloth material
  • Eggshells
  • Ice
  • Feces

Consuming unusual, non-food items can cause physical damage to a person, particularly if the item is toxic or otherwise dangerous. Potential medical dangers can include developing anemia, electrolyte imbalances, arrhythmia, and lead poisoning. Other risks include blockage or obstruction of the small and large intestines and constipation.

What Caused It? 

A pica eating disorder can happen in multiple populations, often developing in children and pregnant women. Other factors that increase the chances of someone developing pica include: 

Mental health disorders or developmental conditions: Some people on the autism spectrum or who have schizophrenia end up developing pica. 

Anxiety: Severe anxiety or stress can cause a person to use pica as an unhealthy coping skill.

Nutritional deficiencies: Pica can come from a person experiencing nutritional deficiencies, such as not getting enough iron, zinc, or calcium. This causes their body to crave unusual, non-food items. 

Genetics and birth disorders: Some people with pica have genetic disorders common to other family members or experienced medical complications in the womb or during birth.

Poor socioeconomic childhood: Children who grow up in extreme poverty often do not receive adequate nutrition. As well, some believe that these children can use pica as a coping mechanism to deal with their living environments, especially if they involve neglect or abuse. 

What causes Pica eating disorder

Signs & Symptoms of Pica Eating Disorder 

While not all signs that someone has a pica eating disorder are the same, some are more common than others. Some of the common ones occur as a result of the toxicity that builds up from the continued consumption of non-food and potentially dangerous items. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Intestinal blockage or obstruction
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Fatigue
  • Not feeling satisfied by eating common types of food
  • Bacterial infections or parasites
  • Fear of eating in front of others
  • Secretive, obsessive eating

How to Treat Pica

In pregnant women and many young children, pica often ends within a few months. For everyone else, a professional treatment program becomes necessary. In fact, pica can last for several years or longer, particularly for those with conditions like autism and schizophrenia. 

Psychological treatment from eating disorder-trained professionals can help young people understand the intricacies of their condition and learn to overcome it. Therapy modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to create effective behavioral changes. A psychiatrist can also assess the individual for any need for prescription medications. 

Family-focused treatment helps a family come together as a team to understand the challenges their loved one faces when they have a pica eating disorder. For this reason, many facilities include family therapy as part of their multi-disciplinary approach. 

Finally, a person with pica may need medical care from doctors and nurses to help treat any physical complications of their eating disorder. Along with that, registered dieticians can help educate both the child and their parents about new healthy ways to eat via nutritional counseling. 

Girl treating her Pica eating disorder in Los Angeles

Benefits of Going to Treatment for Pica Eating Disorder 

Recovering from a pica eating disorder means a young person needs access to a variety of eating disorder-trained professionals versed in helping adolescents learn to recover. Compassionate, non-judgmental care helps young people feel accepted and ready to learn to overcome their illness. A multi-faceted treatment approach can come from skilled, experienced therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, and nurses. Along with that, registered dieticians and talented chefs can help produce a healthy dietary intake for young people in need of making a change.

Another benefit involves bringing teenagers together to facilitate peer support that can help them feel less alone. Having pica can incur a great deal of judgment and misunderstanding from schoolmates, friends, and family members. When adolescents gather in a residential program that specifically targets eating disorders, they enjoy feeling accepted. This, in turn, helps them become more open to taking the steps necessary to recover.

Family-focused treatment makes sure to include parents, siblings, and other family members in a common goal of becoming educated about pica and how a person overcomes it. This allows young people to feel understood and more effectively communicate with their families as they move through the stages of recovery.

Begin Treatment for Pica Eating Disorder in Los Angeles, CA

When a family becomes affected by a teenager developing an eating disorder, they want to find impactful, supportive, family-focused care. This can prove especially true when the individual has a pica eating disorder, which is often misunderstood even within the clinical world. Trellis Recovery Centers in Los Angeles employs a staff of eating disorder-trained professionals who understand how to work with a diverse population of eating disorders. We also know how to care for and nurture teenagers who need help recovering from the challenges of living with their illnesses.

Visit our admissions page now and find out how easy it is to get started helping your child. Our friendly staff is happy to answer any questions you have.