I have a serious question. A friend at my college, whom I grew up with, gave us a startling revelation last week. Ever since he has been a child, he has rejected the urge to poop, and has held it in. Even then, when it would start to come out, he would "pinch it off" with his fingers, drop the poo in the trash, and either wipe his hands on his pants or lick the fecal matter off his fingers. The last time he ate any of his own fecal matter was two years ago. He also maintains he was not abused as a child, and knowing his family like I do, he is most likely telling the truth.
Have you ever heard of this, what possibly could have caused it, and what effects would it have on a person's system?
While I thank you (maybe) for the question, you have to know that this is really abnormal behavior, unless your friend is a cocker spaniel or something. Despite his protestations of a normal childhood, I would beg to differ. This is one effed up dude, man!
Another thing: Why on GOD'S EARTH would a "normal" person ever ADMIT to having done this in the past???? I would go to the grave with this one, personally. I suspect if he is admitting to having done this in the past, he is STILL doing it. Avoid shaking hands with your friend at all costs. In fact, avoid your friend like the plague.
As to your questions:
The name of this behavior is Coprophagia. Simply put, coprophagia is the consumption of feces. It is extremely uncommon in humans, but one of the most common complaints of dog owners. I could find relatively little information about human coprophagia, which should tell you that it is pretty sick and twisted behavior. I did find out that some people get off sexually on it.
What could have caused it?
Besides the aforementioned effed up childhood, there are many causes of coprophagia in dogs, such as:
Attention-seeking behavior: When the dog engages in coprophagia, their owner tends to reprimand and, therefore, pay attention to the animal. Perhaps your friend didn't get enough parental attention. Although, I'll bet a child who eats FECES gets LOTS of attention...
Allelomimetic behavior: The dog observes the owner picking up the feces and learns from them to do so as well. Maybe your friend's parents ate their own crap. (Unlikely, but your friend sounds pretty whack, so we must consider it.)
Maternal behavior: A bitch with puppies will often engage in coprophagia, and this behavior is normal. There are many theories as to why the bitch does this, including keeping the den clean and preventing the scent of the feces from attracting predators. Your friend's mom could have eaten his feces when he was a baby. A human baby's first poop is called Meconium, which is a tarry, black, sticky, odorless substance. It is hard to get off the kids crack with a washcloth, so maybe your friend's mom resorted to extreme means.
Dominance behavior: There have been reports of a submissive dog consuming the feces of one or more dominant dogs in the same household. There are other examples in nature where the submissive members of a group participate in apparently bizarre behaviors. Your friend may unconsciously want to be the "top dog" in his human relationships. In my opinion, however, it is doubtful that stool-eating will help accomplish this.
Reinforcement: Something about eating the feces itself reinforces the behavior. Things such as taste may be a factor in this. It's simply appealing to the dog to eat the feces, so it does so. Again, this is not likely the explanation for your friend's behavior. I can only imagine how shit tastes, and wouldn't think it appealing.
Feeding behavior: Many people feed their dogs only once per day. Some postulate that dogs naturally want to have multiple meals throughout the day, hence they use coprophagia to supplement their feeding schedule and fulfill this need. Perhaps your friend just needs to eat more often!
In any event, your friend shouldn't be eating feces. Feces are swarming with bacteria, and weren't meant to be recycled.
There is a product for dogs called Forbid that makes the taste of feces unappealing. Perhaps your friend should get some. Someone at work told me that feeding pineapple to your dogs makes them stop eating their shit.
Hmmm....I eat a lot of pineapple, and I don't eat my feces. Maybe there is something to this!
Good luck with your friend, Nate. I would personally dump him before there is another "startling revelation" made to you, such as a profound admiration for Jeffrey Dahmer or something.
And thanks for asking Poonurse.
Poonurse is an RN with 25 years experience in labor and delivery. Her qualifications include seeing a lot of poop, and owning a computer. Also, she works in Michigan, which she calls the asshole of the universe, so that's another bit of credibility. Poonurse would like to remind you that she is a poo nurse, not a poo doctor. Her advice should be taken with moderate skepticism, and you should consult a REAL, sober medical professional if you have a serious medical condition.
Got a question for her?