Everyone gets cravings that they know they shouldn’t indulge. But what if the food that you couldn’t stop fantasizing about wasn’t food at all? That’s what one woman (and countless others) experienced. It’s called pica, and it can cause an uunusual and even dangerous appetite for non-food items, like chalk, drywall, and even paint chips.
The medicinal and psychiatric community is split about whether or not pica (pronounced PIE-kah) is a true eating disorder, an addiction, or just a disorder that drives people to eat unusual and potentially dangerous items. But regardless of what it is, it’s definitely a real and difficult experience.
“Sue,” who wished to remain anonymous, suffered from pica, an eating disorder that is characterized by an appetite for non-food items, for three years. She says she first felt cravings during her freshman year of college.
I would just sit in class and watch my professors write with the chalk and think it looked really good. I would imagine biting into it and eating it. I finally started taking pieces of it to eat alone in my dorm room when my roommate was at class. It was really good.
But, she says, it didn’t stop with chalk. She also craved other hard, dusty items often linked with pica, like kitty litter and clay-based potting soil. Though chalk was the only one she ever indulged.
I couldn’t really buy any of the other things I wanted, and, like, it would just be too weird to have it. I couldn’t just…hide a bag of kitty litter in my room. And I didn’t want just any dirt. It was a really specific kind of craving. It’s hard to describe… but I wanted it. I thought about it a lot. So I just ate chalk. And when I ran out, I would keep thinking about ways I could get more without getting caught.