A mother-of-five has been diagnosed with a rare disorder called Pica after seeking medical help for her addiction . . . to eating sofas.
Adele Edwards, of Bradenton, Florida, has been eating the foam inside couch cushions for 21 years. She sought help when the cravings started getting out of control.
Scroll down for video
Adele, 31, said, “In the last year, I’ve eaten seven sofas. I unzip the cushions and snack on the foam inside. And once I start, I just can’t stop. But now doctors have told me that if I carry on, my addiction will kill me.”
Adele suffers from a rare medical condition called Pica, a disorder found most commonly in toddlers and pregnant women who lack certain nutrients, causing them to crave non-nutritive substances like chalk, coins, batteries, and even dirt. Sometimes it’s caused by stress, and Adele admits her first time happened during a very emotional period in her life, when her parents were on the brink of divorce.
She said, “My life was out of control at the time. I didn’t understand my parents breaking up. This was something I could control.”
When her cousin decided to chew a piece of sofa for fun, something in Adele’s head made her want to try too. She said, “I was 10 years old. I liked the flavor, I liked the way it felt in my mouth. Twenty-one years later, I’ve eaten couch cushions every day since.”
Today, Adele is trying therapy and hypnosis to rid herself of the compulsion. She has recently been eating pieces of couch cushion 15 times per day and consumes the equivalent of a throw pillow each week. If this continues, doctors say Adele could die.
Adele shared, “It bothers me how much control it has over me now.It’s hard to try to get people to understand how bad this addiction is. I’m aware of the life risks. Doctors have told me I could get a stomach blockage so bad I’d go septic and my intestines could explode. That scares me.”
Three years ago, Adele woke up in the middle of the night in terrible agony. Crying, she tried to get up, but collapsed by the side of her bed. She was rushed to hospital, where doctors found a serious blockage in her lower intestine.
After six days with a tube down her throat trying to clear the impasse, doctors were preparing for major surgery to remove the obstruction. Thankfully for her, enhanced doses of laxatives were able to pass the stubborn ball of cushion through her body.
“It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “I’m scared to go back to the hospital for a blockage again.”
The blockage was the size of a grapefruit—and made of pure sofa.
Like many addicts, Adele didn’t get hooked overnight. She started by chewing the cushion foam before spitting it out. But it wasn’t long until she began to swallow each small piece of cushion she put in her mouth.
Today, Adele’s bizarre eating habit includes added levels of disgust.
“I unzipper the cushion cover and tear off a piece about the size of half a pencil,” she said. “Then I take it outside and rub it in dirt. The dirt makes it crunchier. Then I chew on it and swallow it.”
Her gastroenterologist, Dr. Christopher Olenec, of the Digestive Health Center in Sarasota, Florida, the man who diagnosed Miss Edwards with Pica, was alarmed when she told him of her new habit with the dirt.
‘The question became, “Did she have a deficiency in her iron? And was that what was driving her to ingest the seat cushions?”
In fact she did. Adele’s blood contains half the amount of iron of a normal woman. For most, an easy solution would be regular consumption of iron supplements, but she has always struggled to combat her strange addiction with regular treatment.
“I’ve taken the iron supplements and they seem to actually work,” she said.
But what does Adeles’s family think of her repulsive habit?
“They know about it, but I never do it in front of them,” she said. “My fiancé helps me monitor how much I eat. He makes sure I’m cutting down little by little.”
But Adele knows a more serious approach to quitting is necessary. She and her family have recently moved into her sister’s home, where she faces a crossroads ahead. Having left her couches behind, Adele has stockpiled enough cushion to tide her over for a matter of weeks. But when her supply runs out, will she begin to eat her sister’s couch?
Miss Edwards, who is in discussions to enter a therapy center in California for people with similar strange addictions, believes this is the time for her to be serious about quitting.
“I’ve been doing this almost my whole life, 21 years. It’s consumed me. It’s putting my life and family at risk. I’m trying to stop this.”