Living With Pica: Chewin’ the Pages

Back to Article
Back to Article

Living With Pica: Chewin’ the Pages

By Maddie Wall

Many people have probably watched the TLC show “My Strange Addiction” or heard of the crazy things that people are addicted to, such as eating mattresses or drinking paint, but you’ve probably never met someone in person who does something like this. Well, that’s me. I eat paper. I don’t do it because I think it’s funny or  just for the heck of it; I’m doing it because I have an eating disorder called pica.

Pica is a disorder that causes the affected to compulsively eat items that aren’t food and have no nutritional value. Normally, it occurs in very young children or women who are pregnant and can actually be very dangerous for someone my age who can’t stop because they don’t get help. Items that someone with pica might consume include (but aren’t limited to) paper, clay, chalk, ice, or paint. I only eat paper.

Now I’m not here to cause concern about what could happen if I can’t stop, but to talk about why I have pica and how it affects my daily life. Let’s make one thing clear: I don’t just eat paper when it’s put up front of me, and I don’t consume all types. I prefer newspaper or thin cardboard, but the first paper I began to eat was issues of The Tam News, probably because I love the smell of new books. I don’t usually eat things with lots of chemicals anymore because I don’t want to risk the consequence of ink poisoning or the other unhealthy reactions that could occur, so I stick to paper that isn’t glossy and doesn’t smell strongly of chemicals.

My condition began at the end of the last school year and has continued to this date. At first, I didn’t see the harm that could come from continuing to eat paper, but after researching the disorder more, I came across the consequences of intestinal blockage or ink poisoning, so I began to just chew paper and not swallow it. I occasionally cave and ingest it. I also discovered that anxiety contributes to my urge to do it, rather than hunger. Chewing/eating paper calms me down. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but that’s part of the reason I do it.

Everyday, I come across paper that I would love to chew on or consume. I have stashes of newspaper next to my bed and many rips out of my school journals. One of my best friends is aware of my specific taste, and occasionally will supply my need, while my other best friend, who seems to care for my health more, takes away anything that he thinks I will eat.

Living with pica is hard. Paper is everywhere, and I am always tempted to eat it, especially when I go into places like Staples or Office Depot. It’s like a recovering alcoholic walking into a bar.

While living with this condition, I’ve come across a lot of skepticism and disbelief. Just because I’m willing to talk about my problem doesn’t mean I’m seeking attention. I’m not ashamed of it..

Yes, it’s peculiar, but it’s part of who I am and it is likely to go away when I get the right vitamin supplements along with a different way to relieve my anxiety. Not everyone has to believe this, but it is a real thing that has affected my life.

I would also like to make it clear that I’m not writing this to get the input of others. I’m talking with my doctor and parents and I know how potentially dangerous this could be and am getting the medical attention I need, but I thought I would bring attention to the fact that there are other eating disorders than anorexia and bulimia, and there are different ways to treat medical disorders.

Yes, this might not be the healthiest thing but no one should look at it like I’m really that different or weird. Accept me for who I am and understand that I’m capable of taking care of myself, even with Pica