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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Anxiety and Fabric Issues

02/01/2001

Question:

My brother is 9. He has an addictive personality. This might sound strange but when he rests he has to hold on to foam, a type of spongy cushion. Something found in chairs. For the past six months he`s been biting it and swallowing this substance. My parents and I told my brother not to eat it. We took the foam from the house but we found some under his bed a few days ago. I feel this is bad for his digestive system. Is this true? Last night he said he has gas but when he tries to use the bathroom nothing will come out. I want to take him to the doctor, but how can I explain my brother eats foam? Please help

Answer:

Fascination with certain fabrics or materials is a symptom of an anxiety problem, not an addiction. Although this fascination can be so extreme that it appears that the person cannot break their "habit", this problem is very treatable. The ingestion of this material however could lead to serious bowel obstruction as the foam material cannot be broken down by the GI tract. I would urge the family to consult a physician or pediatrician. Just warning or scolding will not change this behavior however. It is likely that your brother will be best helped by a mental health professional to stop his foam "habit."

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati