How to Stop Eating Toilet Paper (Pica Syndrome)

Written by

Paulk Webb


Freddie J. Hagopian

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how to stop eating toilet paper

There are different mental health conditions that you may go through, one of which is being addicted to eating toilet paper. And while there are harmful effects in consuming non-food items, stopping this habit is easier said than done.

But it’s possible!

This article is here to show you how to stop eating toilet paper, from consulting a mental health professional to performing baby steps by yourself to break this compulsive habit. 

Pica: Why Do You Crave Toilet Paper?

why-do-you-crave-toilet-paper-(1)The “eating-toilet-paper disorder” is called xylophagia, a condition wherein a person gets the desire to consume pencils, things made of wood, and paper, such as tissue. Xylophagia is then a form of pica, an eating disorder that makes people crave non-food items.

Everyone may be affected by Pica—men and women, young and old, and different ethnicities. However, research has seen that ingesting toilet paper is more common:

  1. while pregnant;
  2. young or small children and;
  3. those who have learning disabilities.

How to Know if It’s Pica or Just Curiosity?

Pica is a mental health condition that makes people compulsively and continuously crave items that are not food. This means your desire to eat toilet paper every day is not just out of curiosity and you need help—from a health professional and your family— to control it.

That said, here are some helpful ways we recommend you perform to stop craving for toilet paper.

How to Treat Eating-Toilet-Paper Disorder

1. Consult a Primary Care Physician


Seeing a primary care physician (PCP) is a great first step to giving attention to xylophagia. A PCP can perform an assessment and evaluation before referring you to a specialized doctor for your condition. If you have a pediatrician, you can consult with them, too.

  • When telling a doctor your situation, make sure that you don’t leave out or lie about important details such as:
    1. How long you’ve been eating tissue or even how long you’ve been chewing toilet paper but not swallowing it
    2. If you have other diagnosed mental or medical conditions
    3. If you have cultural traditions or are involved in social practices that require you to eat toilet paper
  • Follow the procedures that will be given by the physician, especially if you are referred to a specialist or prescribed medicines.

2. Consult a Medical Specialist


Turning to a medical specialist usually comes after consulting a PCP. From the word itself, this is a medical professional specializing in the condition causing your pica of eating toilet paper and its effects on your health, if any.

Some of the medical specialists you may encounter are the following:

  • Psychiatrist. Consuming toilet paper can be a response to mental health problems such as schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Dietitian or Nutritionist. Craving for non-food items such as toilet paper may be a sign that your body is not receiving the nutrients it needs, like zinc and iron.

Oftentimes, pica is seen on the malnourished or those living in poor conditions, mainly the reason for the lack of proper food. 

  • Since xylophagia is hard to control on your own, behavioral intervention from a psychologist can help you eliminate your toilet paper cravings.

An example can be finding a healthy food substitute or rewarding yourself as a form of positive reinforcement when you don’t eat toilet paper.

3. Take Prescribed Medicine or Supplements


Healthcare professionals may prescribe you medicines or supplements to target the cause or effect of your pica disorder of eating toilet paper. Make sure to take them on time and keep track of your progress.

For example, licensed dietitians and nutritionists can recommend dietary supplements (if they are authorized in your country) to combat deficiency. Ultimately, they can help you with meal plans so you can receive proper nutrition.

4. Perform Behavioral Intervention


Behavioral intervention is a way to change the actions of an individual. In this case, we want to slowly but surely eliminate the desire to eat toilet paper.

As mentioned, consulting a psychologist is the best step to improve pica tendencies. Below are some examples of behavioral interventions that work on kids and adults:

  1. Finding edible substitutes like chewing gums, fruits, vegetables, and snacks full of nutrients.
  2. Positive reinforcement such as rewarding yourself when you don’t eat toilet paper within the goal timeframe.
  3. Educational intervention that will make you aware of the dangers of consuming toilet paper, therefore solidifying the reason to stop.

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What Causes Toilet Paper Eating?


Below are the listed different causes for xylophagia:

  1. Deficiency in nutrition such as zinc, iron, and calcium
  2. Mental health conditions namely schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety.
  3. Developmental or intellectual disabilities
  4. Developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Social or cultural practices involving eating non-food items can also be the reason for an individual to crave for toilet paper.

Can You Die From Eating Tissue?

Eating tissue won’t directly cause death, but when done continuously, this habit can give you the following complications:

  1. infections
  2. blockage or tearing of intestines
  3. stomach pain or problems in bowel activity (e.g. blood in stool)
  4. dental problems
  5. lead poisoning


Eating items that are not edible can pose a danger to our health and body; that’s why in how to stop eating toilet paper (xylophagia, a form of pica), we recommend consulting a health professional.

Physicians will test and determine if you have xylophagia and refer you to a specialist to target the underlying cause. That said, you must take prescribed medicine (if any) and perform advised behavioral interventions to help you get rid of the habit of consuming toilet paper.

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