Pica is a mental health disorder where the affected individuals have a persistent behaviour of eating materials and substances that are not food.
The danger of engaging in such eating habits can result in medical emergencies which include death, temporary or permanent direct or indirect health damage (e.g. intestinal or brain damage, poisoning, infections, weight loss, nutritional deficits) from eating toxin-containing substances such as lead or mercury.
Pica can affect both men and women of all ages, and most commonly begin in early childhood. Pica is common for individuals with developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A lack of parental supervision may put children at greater risk of developing Pica. Pica may also affect pregnant women during their pregnancy. Other mental health conditions need to ruled out, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.