Are You a Pica Eater?

Eating disorders anorexia nervosa bulimia and Pica examined

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Eating disorders are more common than many might think. Recent statistics show that one in particular is on the rise.

Pica is an eating disorder where patients eat substances that aren’t food like dirt, clay, hair, paper and sometimes even coal. Other eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are more common, but have not made such a splash like Pica has, according to new statistics.

"Seek a therapist if a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder."

Yafu Zhao, M.S., from Social & Scientific Systems, and William Encinosa, Ph.D., from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) studied the difference in statistics of hospitalizations for eating disorders between 1999 to 2000 and 2008 to 2009.

In a previous statistical brief, hospitalizations for eating disorders had a sharp increase from 1999 to 2007. Now in 2008 to 2009, most hospitalizations for eating disorders have decreased by 23 percent except for Pica. Pica cases increased by 93 percent from 1999 to 2009.

Since 2007 to 2008, hospital costs and symptoms secondary to eating disorders have decreased. Symptoms like irregular heartbeat and menstrual disorders declined by 39 percent and 46 percent, showing that severity of eating disorders have lessened. Eating disorders categorized by age groups also declined except for children under the age of 12.

Eating disorders are commonly thought to be a “woman’s problem”, but the statistics show a 53 percent increase in men hospitalized for eating disorders.

Overall, eating disorders and the quality care for these individuals have improved drastically from 2007 to 2009 which led to fewer hospitalizations from eating disorders. In either case, eating disorders are serious and can be fatal.

This research is presented in the September 2011 issue of News and Numbers Summary as part of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 13, 2011
Last Updated:
September 14, 2011