Ask the guy who has Pica

I don’t think we’ve done this before.

Anyway: first, some background. Pica is a mental disorder which is the desire (and usually compulsion) to eat non-food objects. These can range from the only mildly harmful–snow, paper, chalk, flour, mucus, etc.; to somewhat dangerous–blood, dirt, bark, ice, fabric, etc.; to things that can be toxic or otherwise deadly–glass, metal, oil, plastic, feces, etc… There’s a big long list on wikipedia.
There are two main causes of Pica: the most common is that the person has some sort of nutritional deficiency, and the body develops the compulsion to compensate. This is why there are a lot of pregnant women who get Pica–they’re trying to proved nutrients to the baby. If it’s not that, then it’s just a mental disorder, meaning who the hell knows. I fall in the latter category (I hope…no, I’m pretty sure I do). If it’s a nutritional deficiency, the treatment pattern is obvious. But if it’s not, they have to do a whole bunch of behavioral therapy in order to get the person to stop.

And it can be dangerous if the substance itself is dangerous enough, or if the person does it so compulsively that they don’t eat normally. Fortunately, I fall under neither of those categories. And so after much consultation with a doctor and psychologist, it was determined that the amount of paper (primarily) that I eat is not harmful enough to warrant behavioral therapy unless I asked for it. And I really don’t mind it.

So anyway: ask away!

Paper, huh? Yum. What type of paper do you prefer, and how much would you consume in one sitting? Do you chew it or shred it? Swallow it in chunks? How well do you digest it?

And when you were in school, did you ever use the excuse “I ate my homework”?

Do you have an idea why paper in particular is appealing to you? Is the desire or compulsion to eat paper caused or aggravated by stress? Does eating paper relieve stress?

Do you buy certain types of paper because they taste better than others, and do you buy paper with the sole intention of eating it, or do you just see some sitting around and have a snack?

Interesting thread, thanks!

Paper must have a lot of fiber. Are you super regular in your bowl movements?

Typically, thinner paper, like tissue, tends to be easier to eat. Most paper tastes the same–although I recently discovered that lavender-colored paper tastes delicious. Like a honey-glazed chicken broth-dipped celery stick. No idea why, since most dyes taste terrible (seriously–there is nothing worse than an orange piece of paper. It’s like…burning rotten corn.).

And the easiest way to eat it is to bite off a swallowable slice, and then chew for a while, before swallowing it. Chewing paper causes it to clump together without working your mouth in a certain way, so I try not to eat too much at once.

I haven’t eaten my homework yet, but I did turn in a test once with bite marks in the margins. I got a few :dubious: from the teacher.

Probably stress relief, although I think a lot of it is just doing something with my mouth. I can’t eat gum, because the flavored stuff leaves me wanting to replace it after a bit and the only flavorless gum out there is expensive and labeled Nihilist, which I refuse to pay for. I used to chew on my pens and pencils, although I never ate the plastic or metal or wood. I did eat fabric once, though–that is not something I will do again. It was disgusting!

The latter, almost always. Although I will occasionally procure tissues for my room with the primary intent of keeping it available to eat.

They don’t go irregular, at least not in recent memory. No idea if that’s because of the paper, though.

Do you eat it in secret, or in front of others … or both, I guess? If others see you does it bother you? Does it bother them?

Do you wish you could stop?

It was the paste in elementary school, wasn’t it?

Does your state or region of residence charge a lesser tax on food items than on non-food items, and if so, does that make you angry?

By myself, always. Not that I mind being found out, particularly, but I would expect that it would weird others out.

No, not really.

Are you able to control it or is it more like, “Must eat paper now?” Or…like, is it that you have to eat paper but you can do it when you’re alone?

It does, but not particularly. I still need food too, after all.

This got me thinking, so I decided to do a taste test. Here’s how it stacks up:

Computer paper: Coarser, and so a little rougher on the teeth. It has a sort of watery feel to it, which is kinda nice.

Notebook Paper: There are tiny hints of sourness, compared to the other two. I never noticed that before.

Tissue: Very dry. Soft, though. It sticks easier too, so it’s actually pretty hard to eat. However, it’s flexible enough that I don’t have to use my hands to eat it.

But they’re all pretty similar. Overall, I tend to eat tissue more often simply for pragmatic reasons–it’s easier to procure.

Usually I can control it pretty well. The level of desire comes and goes, though. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

Were you concerned enough about your desire to eat paper to see someone about it, or did you self diagnose? Please relate the diagnosis, if there was one.

Yeah, I saw a doctor (actually, it might have just been a nurse. Can’t remember.) and a psychologist.

They said I had Pica, which I pretty much knew already.

What part of you feels the most relieved when you eat paper? Is it a tactile sense, perhaps the chewing feels good, or is it more psychological? What sates you? When is it over, and what makes you feel that you need more?

I do like the taste, in and of itself. A lot of that is probably the texture, but…I dunno. I think I just find it tasty when most don’t. And a lot of it is the chewing, as well. It’s always nice to have something to chew on.

Depends. Sometimes I’m good with a tissue or two; sometimes I’ll consume three whole 8 1/2 x 11s (which is quite a feat, let me tell you. One alone takes, like half an hour to eat).

It’s over when…it’s over, I guess. Sorry if that doesn’t help any. But usually, it’s like hungriness, except a very particular type of hungriness. You know how you eat, and after a while, you just feel full? Same feeling. The same with the initial desires. Frequently, it’s just, ‘ooh, that looks tasty’, or, ‘I really want some paper right about now’, or it can even be unconscious sometimes.

Do you watch your intake at all?

Bleach, ink, carbon, etc?

I suppose this would be a unique dietary plan for anyone.

Hah, yeah.

I try to avoid the chemical stuff. Dyes, ink, plastic labels, etc. are probably bad news. Fortunately, most of that stuff tastes absolutely horrid anyway. With the exception of Lavender for some reason, the dyes taste like what Emeril has nightmares about, and solid ink is usually just as bad, although I can eat a piece of paper that has double-spaced lines or less. Ink and graphite are about the same in terms of where the line goes from ok to problematic. Labels have a godawful texture, like steamed broccoli, except gummier. I usually spit those out right away, although it hasn’t stopped me from trying them every so often :dubious:.

I haven’t really thought about bleach. It helps that most of the stuff I eat doesn’t have much bleach, but I might have to double-check that. I’m pretty sure, though, that the doctor said that it wasn’t an issue.

Thanks for answering the questions. Do you also ever feel full from eating paper?

Also, tough luck on getting eliminated over in the mafia thread…