Strange eating disorder includes eating couches?
January 23, 2011 2:04 AM   Subscribe

Pica is an eating disorder, that causes people to eat very strange things, like dirt and glue. But eating a couch? Is that really the same thing?
posted by mad_little_monkey (34 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sofa. So good!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:10 AM on January 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


This puts a new spin, perhaps, on the term "couch potato"?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:11 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I once ate a stool. It was pretty good, but not as good as stool.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:13 AM on January 23, 2011


She's making a horrible mistake eating the insides of those cushions. Everyone knows all the nutrients are in the covers.
posted by NoraReed at 2:15 AM on January 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


"I like the darker parts because they have more flavor," Adele said on the show.

Oh, okay. I'm just going to slink into a corner and DIE now. Of HORROR. I am definitely experiencing a deficit of human empathy, here.
posted by Neofelis at 2:55 AM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


NoraReed: "She's making a horrible mistake eating the insides of those cushions. Everyone knows all the nutrients are in the covers"

What, from beer farts?
posted by bwg at 2:58 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


NoraReed: "She's making a horrible mistake eating the insides of those cushions. Everyone knows all the nutrients are in the covers"

What, from beer farts?
posted by bwg at 10:58 AM on January 23


You know, I think I'll give brunch a miss, today.
posted by Decani at 3:08 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been watching My Strange Addiction. Pica I kind of knew about, and from memory (confirmed by the Wiki link) it's theorized that it was some sort of mineral deficiency. That sort of explains dirt or chalk. The laundry detergent episode was strange, and the Comet cleanser was just tragic. She destroyed her mouth, the dentist had to extract all of her top teeth. The toilet paper eater was confronted with a stack of sheets of toilet paper that represented her daily intake.

I feel a little guilty watching these shows, like Hoarders and Intervention.
posted by fixedgear at 3:30 AM on January 23, 2011


People eat Ajax/Comet apparently in droves. It's really strange to me how many people independently picked up on that one, if you just Google it. They like the texture or the taste, strangely...
posted by disillusioned at 3:37 AM on January 23, 2011


Send this Slideshow to a Friend

No. No, I don't think so.
posted by Splunge at 4:35 AM on January 23, 2011


Send this Slideshow to a "Friend"
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:53 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


the Comet cleanser was just tragic. She destroyed her mouth, the dentist had to extract all of her top teeth.
Nasty.
posted by delmoi at 4:54 AM on January 23, 2011


I used to work at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. One of the residents had pica. He was in his early forties, around 256 pounds and non-verbal. I had already worked my regular shift of 4-11 when the 3rd shift person called in. Since I was the Unit Director I went ahead and stayed to cover the overnight hours. When you work the night shift at a group home it's mostly janitorial, bed checks and cigarettes. When I made my 4am rounds to see that everyone was still asleep I noticed that his bed was empty. I found him in the bathroom on his knees in front of the toilet eating his feces. When he saw me in the doorway, he knew he was caught. He grabbed another handful, shoved it into his mouth then pushed me out of the way and went back to his room. I followed him and did what I could to clean him up and remove what feces was left in his mouth. Poor guy. Another time he pulled out half of the hair on his head and ate it. We figured he must have had a headache but being non-verbal was unable to communicate what he was feeling.
posted by Sailormom at 5:12 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Decani: "You know, I think I'll give brunch a miss, today"

My apologies, Decani; I had no idea that couch cushions were on the menu.

I feel just awful.
posted by bwg at 6:30 AM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pica can also result from the onset of certain kinds of dementia. When my mom was in the final throes of a really awful Parkinson-plus disorder, she would be all but unable to eat a meal, but would nonetheless lick her finger and use the tip to compulsively pick up all the little crumbs and morsels she could reach at her end of the table. More than once I had to stop her trying to eat something that was definitely not food, for fear it would harm her.

This was really sad for me, to see my elegant and circumspect mother eating dry crumbs from a tabletop because she couldn't resist their presence.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:55 AM on January 23, 2011


Some obligatory links
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:18 AM on January 23, 2011


Yes, it's the same thing- she's eating foam - like the pink foam hair curlers? I went through a faze when I was 8 when I couldn't stop eating those. It's the weirdest form of satisfaction ever. It passed and I turned out mostly OK, meaning I don't think anything that's wrong with me now is a result of consuming pink foam hair curlers.

My mother, when she was little, had a more direct form of Pica - she liked to eat the heads off burned matches - the doctor at the time said it had more to do with the sulphur they contained than anything else, hence the mineral deficiency theory. I don't have any real explanation for the foam - it's a petroleum by-product. But, it didn't seem to have any distinctly harmful effects. I nibbled a few other types of foam - from packing materials, etc, but it pretty much had to be pink curlers. I would think couch cushions would taste bad just because of their direct proximity to human contact. I preferred my foam right out of the package.

I outgrew the problem in a matter of months, sometime just before my ninth birthday, and never really said anything to anyone about it. What I find most strange about the people on the television program is that they're willing to be so open about the fact that they eat odd things.
posted by PuppyCat at 8:23 AM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


*phase
posted by PuppyCat at 8:24 AM on January 23, 2011


used to work at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities.

Me too, and the individual I worked with who had pica was a skinny guy whose thing was (usually) bar soap, so we kept that locked away. Not much you can do about feces though.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:45 AM on January 23, 2011


fixedgear: "I've been watching My Strange Addiction. Pica I kind of knew about, and from memory (confirmed by the Wiki link) it's theorized that it was some sort of mineral deficiency. That sort of explains dirt or chalk. The laundry detergent episode was strange, and the Comet cleanser was just tragic. She destroyed her mouth, the dentist had to extract all of her top teeth. The toilet paper eater was confronted with a stack of sheets of toilet paper that represented her daily intake.

I feel a little guilty watching these shows, like Hoarders and Intervention
"

The only reason those shows are made is to prop up the shareholder value of whatever production company is making them. They aren't intended to be educational or be accurate. If it somehow entertains some lowest common denominator while also increasing shareholder value, then all the better for the shareholders.
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:51 AM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Shawn Struck is obviously a Better Person than I am.
posted by fixedgear at 9:00 AM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


If it somehow entertains some lowest common denominator while also increasing shareholder value, then all the better for the shareholders.

As the lowest-common denominator, I don't give a shit about the shareholder. I want to be entertained.

Actually, ShawnStruck is more generous than I am. I was going to reverse his statement and say, "If it somehow increases the value for the shareholder while entertaining me, so much the better for me." But then I realized that I really don't care about the shareholder at all.

I also don't care what the show was "intended" for.

I like seeing shows about people who are different from me.
posted by grumblebee at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Clearly, TLC alternates between the pockets of Big Couch and Big Hair Dryer.
posted by now i'm piste at 10:37 AM on January 23, 2011


Sailormom is obviously a Better Person than I am.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:45 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio exlotuseater, Than are dreamt of in your my philosophy, that we all contain multitudes, and that I'm a cliche-spewing machine right now . . . and I love the world, and Science, and the myriad idiosyncratic facets of human nature.

But I cannot watch this stuff. It squicks me out terribly. I couldn't even watch the trailers/ commercials for the Ajax/Comet eps, I had to look away.

The fact that these shows even exist troubles me, too, on a level I'm not sure I can clearly articulate.

Long, roundabout way of contextualizing this:

I was watching a few minutes of some dumb movie the other day, while I was channel-surfing. The plot, essentially, was a bunch of professional assassins had trackers implanted in them, and it was a great fight to the death, while degenerate rich people bet on them. It's an old trope. But anyway, there's a part where one of the cleverer assassins digs out his tracker in a bathroom and drops it in an innocent guy's coffee-- this bystander happens to be an Irish Catholic priest. He goes on his merry way, unknowing, and a few minutes later gets caught up in an epic battle, and one of the other assassins "saves" him when she realizes he's not a legit player.

The poor guy has no idea what is happening, his whole church has been pretty much blown up, and he's like "we have to call the police!"

The assassin explains that will do no good, that all these deaths will be explained away as random madmen with guns, natural accidents, et cetera; the power of the gaming-cabal or whatever they are is great. I jut found the movie and some transcript--it's The Tournament (2009). Here's the exchange:

Assassin: "The people who run this . . . they are more powerful than the police."

Priest: "But the bodies . . . people will see the bodies."

Assassin: "There will be an explanation . . . it won't be the truth, but it will be what people will buy. . . a madman with a gun, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, a car crash . . . That's how the Tournament remains a secret."

Priest: "It's insane!"

Assassin: "Don't you watch TV, Father? The whole world is insane."
.

The movie was really dumb, and I only watched it for a few minutes, but that last bit really resonated with me. Like a little gem of Truth couched in a lame action movie.

I'm not saying that the people that have pica are insane, but rather that we have a culture of entertainment that supports and rewards these shows; "reality" television and documentary-style shows that are really just exploitative excuses for looking at other people who are so messed up that we stare, in morbid fascination, and say "damn, at least I don't eat couch cushions! I must be doing okay." I suppose I'd be okay with a show treating this idea with a little more . . . what . . . seriousness? Respect? A veneer of decency, rather than the point-and-laugh "oh, you are so fucked up, lol."

I know I'm not saying anything new, and this doesn't presage the end of civilization as we know it, but it does bother me. I know I'm not perfect, either, and I admit to sometimes falling prey to exactly that which I am decrying here, but I just wish it wasn't so prevalent.

Panem et circenses I guess.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:05 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eh, if you've ever owned queen-sized sofabed that has been used as a cat scratching post for the past dozen years, eating it bit by bit is about the only way to get it out of your house.
posted by jamaro at 12:21 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fact that these shows even exist troubles me, too, on a level I'm not sure I can clearly articulate.

I feel that way about "Jersey Shore."

we have a culture of entertainment that supports and rewards these shows; "reality" television and documentary-style shows that are really just exploitative excuses for looking at other people who are so messed up that we stare, in morbid fascination, and say "damn, at least I don't eat couch cushions! I must be doing okay." I suppose I'd be okay with a show treating this idea with a little more . . . what . . . seriousness? Respect? A veneer of decency, rather than the point-and-laugh "oh, you are so fucked up, lol."

You have the reaction that you have. That's fine. Just note that it's not everyone's. I didn't watch it and think any of that. I didn't think "What a freak!" I didn't think "Damn, at least I don't eat couch cushions. I must be doing okay." Even though I don't eat couch cushions. I had no desire to point and laugh and say, "You are so fucked up, lol."

What I thought was "there but for the grace of God go I." I have various oddities and fetishes and additions. That one so easily could have been mine. I just got lucky that it's not.

Since I am fucked up in my own ways, I am able to mentally transfer my fucked-up-ness to eating-couch-pillows-fucked-up-ness.

Maybe you feel more normal and well-adjusted than I do. Generally, when I see a show about "freaks," I think, "Yup. There's one of my group of people."
posted by grumblebee at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


grumblebee, I get what you're saying. And I agree, that's not everyone's reaction. I have always thought that you were a thoughtful and intelligent person, and I'm not surprised that you don't "point and laugh." (And I'm a bit of a freak, myself.) But I feel like the intent of many of these shows is to create that feeling. To frame it in an exploitative way. That's why I'm saying that I'd love to see a more "moderate" tone in shows like this. I like to see the many aspects of human nature, the good, bad, and weird.

And yeah, I am extending my assessment to shows like Jersey Shore as well.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2011


I felt the same way about that episode of M*A*S*H where Klinger tries to eat a Jeep.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:59 PM on January 23, 2011


reality" television and documentary-style shows that are really just exploitative excuses for looking at other people who are so messed up that we stare, in morbid fascination, and say "damn, at least I don't eat couch cushions! I must be doing okay."

I watch Hoarders (right now it is the only TV show I ever watch, sad to say, now that the mini-run of Sherlock is over) and I have found it very illuminating about my own attachment to my stuff. It has really helped me move beyond my own sub-clinical "I'm keeping that because it might be useful someday" reflex.

I spoke with someone who is one of the US's leading authorities on animal hoarding, and she said that she has heard from a number of therapists and animal control officials that they have had a large uptick in people asking for help because they recognized the unhealthiness of their own behaviors after watching Hoarders.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


But I feel like the intent of many of these shows is to create that feeling. To frame it in an exploitative way.

Have you actually seen Hoarders? Although there is a "HEY LOOK AT THIS HOUSE FULLA CRAP" aspect to it, there is a lot of really good information about hoarding and its relationship to other issues like OCD and depression given.

One of my dear friends is a reality-show producer, and he is one of the kindest and most understanding people I know. Yes, there are people in the business who are all "look at the freaks" but there are other people in the business who understand that we all have aspects of our lives where we are out of control, and that knowing one is not alone can be a huge help.

Lance Loud once talked about how, after appearing on An American Family and publicly coming out as gay to his family on TV, he got letters for decades from people who said "I thought I was the only boy who liked boys in the entire world until I saw you on TV."
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:10 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I feel like the intent of many of these shows is to create that feeling.

You may be right. Or that might be an element of the intent.

I guess I don't really care. I know there are nasty people in the world. If some of them made a show for nasty purposes and I wound up liking it for non-nasty purposes, that's all I care about. But it makes sense to me that you DO care about the motives of the producers. It's kind of a matter of framing.

What I'm wondering is this. How, specifically, would you change the show to keep it's basic concept the same ("a show about someone who eats couch-cushions") but making it more respectful?
posted by grumblebee at 2:02 PM on January 23, 2011


My strange addiction has a really weird format, because they mix people with compulsive habits that might really be dangerous (eg the ajax lady) with people who just want to be on TV at any cost (the ventriloquist lady).

What I thought was "there but for the grace of God go I." I have various oddities and fetishes and additions. That one so easily could have been mine.

I have the feeling that if you signed up, they would take you. I get the sense that they would accept someone who is, like, addicted to eating breakfast once a day and bring them to a therapist to learn the dangers of choking.
posted by fermezporte at 5:22 AM on January 24, 2011


I'm not saying that the people that have pica are insane, but rather that we have a culture of entertainment that supports and rewards these shows; "reality" television and documentary-style shows that are really just exploitative excuses for looking at other people who are so messed up that we stare, in morbid fascination, and say "damn, at least I don't eat couch cushions! I must be doing okay." I suppose I'd be okay with a show treating this idea with a little more . . . what . . . seriousness? Respect? A veneer of decency, rather than the point-and-laugh "oh, you are so fucked up, lol."

I know I'm not saying anything new, and this doesn't presage the end of civilization as we know it, but it does bother me. I know I'm not perfect, either, and I admit to sometimes falling prey to exactly that which I am decrying here, but I just wish it wasn't so prevalent.


You have expressed what I wish I could have. I watched a bit of one episode, then turned it off. For one thing, there was not a whole lot of content; after every commercial break, it just repeated what we had already been told and shown. I wasn't learning anything. I was just being asked to gawk and compare myself to the freak that eats couch cushions.

I am very, very close to ending my cable subscription, and TLC is probably going to be that final straw.
posted by Savannah at 6:54 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


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