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The Battle of Rare Medical Disorders You Don’t Want Unless You’re Trying to Throw a Kickass Party

Pika Pica
Pica: An urge to eat strange non-foodstuffs

Feel free to taze me, bro
Riley-Day: The inability to feel pain

‘Kickass Party’ definition may not be universally agreed upon.

I have some pretty severe hypochondriac tendencies; I love researching strange and terrifying diseases almost as much as I love reading about romantic vampires with crippling desires for clumsy brunettes. And after reading about the latest and worst disorder out there, I have the psychosomatic talent of convincing myself that I have said disease and am wasting away in some medically significant fashion.

Luckily, these two are easily un-diagnosed (”Do I want to eat glue?” “If I stab myself, does it hurt?”) and discussing them is not a mental hazard, merely a creepy joy.

Pica is an eating disorder “defined as a compulsive craving for eating, chewing or licking non-food items or food containing no nutrition.” Items commonly found on the Pica menu include chalk, dirt, baking soda, glue, paper, cigarette butts, or even actual food items not normally ingested such as raw potatoes and flour. (I’m not sure why raw potato is listed as I eat it regularly and have since I was a little girl—oh no! I do have Pica!) On an interesting side note, compulsively eating your hair—though likely a type of Pica—is called Trichophagia.

Pica’s cravings are often caused by a mineral deficiency and are not typically life-threatening, unless vast quantities of the desired substance are ingested and prove dangerous (such as lead paint chips). Pregnant women are one of the groups most often afflicted due to their baby absorbing much of their own body’s nutrients.

Riley-Day Syndrome is not so forgiving and has a significant mortality rate due to its nature. Thankfully, it’s also more obscure and targeted than Pica. Riley-Day is a genetic disorder which affects the development and functioning of the body’s nerves. Essentially, its patients do not feel pain. This sounds like some sort of superpower, but in reality, it’s extremely dangerous. If you accidentally cut yourself and don’t feel it, you might just keep on cutting until the pool of blood indicates something is amiss. A minor burn from the stove can rapidly become a third degree burn for a Riley-Day patient. It only escalates from there.

So if you’re going to go to the trouble of having a rare and terrible disease, you might as well make the most of it. The opportunities for these two vary, but their primary shared outlet would be party-spicing-up. Things falling apart at your “OMG, The Office!” shindig? Good thing Mary-Sue’s got a taste for paper. Like any good drinking game, have her eat an 8 1/2″ by 11″ every time Jim makes a face at the camera. Friends exhausted your entertainment options and are now demanding something new and exciting? Play Pin the Tail on Donny—he won’t mind, he won’t even feel it! Just be sure your pins are no longer than a thumbtack. Of course, either one could turn into a Guinness World Records event, for most X eaten or most X stuck into your skin—at the same party, maybe most X eaten after being stuck into someone’s skin.

In the end, Pica has to be the victor. Feeding strange items to a friend who’s suddenly developed an intense craving for them would be hilariously bizarre. Poking your pal who has Riley-Day would be sadistically fascinating, but always tinged with grief.

Pica, for the win.