Thursday, July 14, 2022

Question from Emily - Pica in Tudor times

As an eating disorder and mental health specialist, I came here to ask how was pica seen/treated in this era? You know, the disorder where someone craves and/or eats inedible and non-food objects. Are there any surviving documents or any record of anyone, from Tudor times, that suffered from this condition? If so, can you please give me an example, or two, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.


Emily said...

I also want to say that I’ve seen some 1,400 preserved, half-digested objects that were removed from a woman’s stomach back from 1929. This was a few years ago when I went to the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. If you want to see it without traveling there, there is a picture of it in the pica Wikipedia article. However, be warned, it is a bit disturbing and creepy.

Howard said...

Hi Emily, I've been a historian and history teacher for 35 years, and to answer your question, yes, I firmly believe that all the eating disorders have, unfortunately, been a part of human life for centuries, since after Adam and Eve. However, it would be anachronistic to say they were diagnosed, recognized, or treated in our modern day sense, because unfortunately they weren't.
Anorexia wasn't first called that until the Victorian era, and bulimia wasn't named until about the mid 20th century, and BED (binge eating disorder) has only been recently even recognized as a disorder. I would say pica is the only eating disorder that's been "observed" since ancient times, but even then, past societies probably wouldn't have had the modern day understanding of it either that we have now. The only most historical preserved evidence of pica that I've seen is of the objects of an unknown lady who swallowed them from 1929, at the Glore museum. (And yes, I've visited it, too).
Both my great-grandfather, and grandfather developed eating disorders along with shell shock after coming back home from WW1 and WW2. My great-grandfather became anorexic, and likely had pica, too, as some objects such as jewelry started mysteriously disappearing, and he had digestive distress, and my grandpa came back from WW2, as a binge-eater and also likely a bulimiac.
Sorry for being so long-winded with my response, but I hope this info helps you. Please have a great rest of your day.

Emily said...

Thank you so much for that info, Howard. I hope you're having a nice day, too.