Reality Television's Pica Craze

in Pop Culture
February 8th, 2011

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It seems that TLC’s latest tactic to garner higher ratings is by the exploitation of those suffering from pica, a disease where people feel the compulsion to eat things that are not food.

See a video here: Kesha has an “addiction” to eating toilet paper!

“My Strange Addiction” features a number of people with obsessions ranging from odd to dangerous, and  a good third of the participants this season are clearly, to anyone who has taken an Abnormal Psychology class, suffering from pica. So far this season, people consumed toilet paper, household cleanser, detergent and soap, couch cushions, and glass. On a recent episode a man even swallowed bullets.

Pica is a serious condition. It can lead to the abnormal ingestion of dangerous chemicals, nutritional deficiencies, blockages in the digestive tract, tears in the intestines, and infections.

One featured addict, Crystal, ingested the household cleaner Comet for 30 years. After an inevitable trip to the dentist, she was informed that the majority of her teeth had eroded– even at the root. Crystal’s dentist said her condition was the equivalent to a “meth mouth.” Restoring her teeth took months of dental surgery totaling over $20,000.
Crystal from

Pica is typically a childhood occurrence  usually lasting  a few months, but those featured on this show are adults and they clearly need help. The producers of “My Strange Addiction”  claim to help those featured on the show seek help. Every participant is encouraged to attend intensive therapy because behavioral counseling is the most widely used treatment for this  incurable disease.

Staying in therapy after the filming of the show ends is not obligatory. At the end of Episode 3, Crystal’s chances of remaining in therapy seemed slim. Her disorder stems from her difficult childhood that started with sexual abuse. Her problem  needs serious attention, and should not to be featured as some sort of novelty on a reality TV show.

If “My Strange Addiction’s” producers worked to ensure that the sufferers on the show committed themselves to a therapy plan, it might be acceptable to have a show of this nature. The way the program is currently set up, those involved with “My Strange Addiction’s” production are no longer simply innocent bystanders. There may be no law saying that when you see someone in trouble you are supposed to help them, but this is not a political issue; it’s a moral one. The creators of this program are  morally obligated to help these ill individuals instead of solely using them to make money.

Works Cited:

My Strange Addiction Focuses on Unusual Obsessive Behavior – ABC News

Mental Health and Pica – WebMD

Dentist Helps Metro Detroit Woman Addicted to Comet Cleaner – Fox

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