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Trichotillomania Disorder

What is Trichotillomania Disorder?

Do you ever have the tendency to pull out your hair? Can’t control it?

Trichotillomania Disorder is a type of impulse disorder in which an individual cannot contain themselves from pulling out their hair (i.e. usually scalp, eyelashes, and eyebrows). Such individuals are aware that they are hurting themselves by doing such thing however, they cannot control their impulses and may even pull out their hair when they are stressed as a way to soothe themselves.

What are the symptoms of Trichotillomania Disorder (besides pulling their hair out)?

  • Individuals tend to feel tense before performing the action of hairpulling or when trying to resist such urge
  • After acting on the impulse of pulling their hair, individuals feel relieved, satisfied, or pleased
  • Due to the hair pulling, their work and/or social life is distressed
  • Bare patches when hair has been pulled out
  • Individuals may inspect the hair root, twirl the hair, pull the hair between the teeth, eat their hair, or chew their hair
  • Noticeable hair loss including shortened and/or thinned hair, bald areas
  • Preference for specific types of hair

It is important to note that individuals who pull out their hair also tend to pick their skin, bite their nails, or chew their lips. Furthermore, some individuals may pull their hair as a way to handle negative or uncomfortable feelings (i.e. stress, boredom, loneliness, frustration, fatigue, or anxiety) while others find such behavior quite satisfying and as a way to feel a sense of relief.

What causes Trichotillomania Disorder?

Although the exact cause if Trichotillomania Disorder is not known, some people who suffer from depression or anxiety tend to be diagnosed with it as well. Additionally, it has been linked to abnormalities in brain pathways such as emotional regulation, habit formation, impulse control, and movement.

What are some risk factors of Trichotillomania Disorder?

  • Family history
    • If an individual has a relative with such disorder, they may be more likely to develop it
  • Age
    • Such disorder tends to develop in early teens (between 10 and 13 years of age)
  • Other disorders
    • Individuals who suffer from other disorders such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, may be more likely to develop Trichotillomania
  • Stress

What complications can Trichotillomania Disorder cause?

  • Emotional distress
    • Individuals may feel shame, humiliated, or embarrassed
    • Individuals may experience low self-esteem, anxiety, alcohol or street drug use as well as depression
  • Individuals may have a hard time in social and/or work situations
    • Individuals may wear wigs or style their hair so that people cannot see their bald spots for example
  • Skin & hair damage
    • Can lead to scarring and infections for example
  • Hairballs
    • Over a period of time, consuming such hairballs can cause weight loss, intestinal obstruction, death, or vomiting

How is Trichotillomania Disorder treated?

  • Habitat Reversal Training
    • Main treatment
    • It replaces the bad habits with something that is less of a harm to the individual
    • Identifies the triggers
  • Medication
    • Antidepressants
    • Atypical antipsychotics

What complications can Trichotillomania Disorder lead to?

  • Infection
  • Skin damage
    • May lead to problems with self-esteem & body image
  • Permanent hair loss
    • May also lead to problems with self-esteem & body image

How can I help myself or someone I know cope with Trichotillomania?

  • Accept yourself (or loved one) and come to terms with such disorder
  • Be open about it
  • Be emotionally supportive
  • Educate yourself and loved ones
    • “Why don’t you just stop?”
    • “Stop covering your bald spots and maybe then you’ll see the damage.”
    • “You just need to learn how to relax.”