Hospitalizations For Pica Almost Doubled Over Last Decade: Report

More and more people are being hospitalized with eating disorders -- and one disorder that has been particularly on the rise is the condition pica, where people consume non-edible items like hair, paper, dirt and feces, according to a new government report. Pica is most common in women and children with autism.

Pica hospitalizations have almost doubled over the last decade, increasing by 93 percent from 964 to 1,862 from 1999 to 2009, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report showed.

The reason for the near doubling of pica hospitalizations could be attributed to the increased number of children being diagnosed with autism in recent years, MyHealthNewsDaily reported. In fact, 31 percent of pica cases among children in 2009 were in kids with autism.

Anorexia nervosa hospitalizations increased by 13 percent over the last decade, but bulimia nervosa hospitalizations decreased by 14 percent over the study period, according to the report.

And hospitalizations from other kinds of eating disorders increased by 56 percent over the 10 years, the report said.

The report also showed that women were more likely to be hospitalized with an eating disorder, comprising 88 percent of hospitalizations in 2008 and 2009. But the number of men being hospitalized for an eating disorder has increased significantly, by 53 percent, over the last 10 years, MedScape reported.

A past study, in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, showed that while bulimia was more common in young adolescent girls than in boys, the prevalence of anorexia among young adolescent boys and girls was equal.

Pica is a little more well-known these days thanks to the TLC Show "My Strange Addiction." On the show, several people have admitted their pica-like addictions; in one episode, one woman confessed to eating couch cushions and foamy furniture, eating in her lifetime two chairs and seven couches. And in another episode, a woman told about how she ate her husband's ashes to comfort herself after his death.

There is even a special name for people with pica who eat dirt -- geophagy. The craving for the sandy stuff is most often noted in pregnant women and young children, and may come as a response to malnutrition or mineral deficiencies, though there is not enough research to back that up.