Trichotillomania, also known as hair-pulling disorder or compulsive hair pulling, is a body-focused repetitive condition usually classified as obsessive-compulsive related. People who suffer from it have an uncontrollable urge to pluck hairs from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic region, or other body parts, to the extent that they develop noticeable bald spots.
Some trichotillomania sufferers experience mild symptoms. For others, the urge to pluck can at times be uncontrollable and debilitating. Often, trichotillomania urges vary in severity. While most people with trichotillomania find the condition challenging and unpleasant, they’re usually able to lead normal, productive lives. Megan Fox, Charlize Theron, Justin Timberlake, Victoria Beckham, Katy Perry, and Olivia Munn are just a handful of famous people who have revealed they have this disorder. Although there is no single one-size-fits-all treatment, these are the four most common treatment options for this hair-loss disease.
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy used to help treat issues ranging from depression and anxiety to addictions and self-injurious behaviors including trichotillomania. Its goal is to increase a patient’s awareness and understanding of the thoughts and feelings responsible for their negative behavior. Trichotillomania patients undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy learn to become aware of what triggers their urge to pull hair. Triggers vary from person to person but may include having to deal with certain emotions, situations, people or places. Cognitive behavioral therapy patients learn better coping mechanisms — alternative behaviors to practice — when triggers arise. Instead of hair pulling, they may pick up a “fidget toy,” write in a journal, paint their fingernails or place bandages on their fingertips, for example. Effective alternative behaviors will vary from patient to patient. The premise of cognitive behavioral therapy is that mindfully replacing hair pulling with an alternative behavior will eventually make that alternative behavior a habit.
Used alone or in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, certain medications may reduce the urge of trichotillomania sufferers to pull their hair out.
In a study of trichotillomania medications, clomipramine (its brand name is Anafranil) was shown to significantly reduce hair pulling in some patients. Both an antidepressant and anti-obsessional medication, clomipramine affects the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. This medication does cause potentially serious side effects and has dangerous interactions with some other drugs, so it’s not an option for everyone.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including, Luvox, Zoloft and Paxil, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression and tend to be tolerated well by most people. These medications have shown promise, especially in people who suffer from trichotillomania combined with anxiety, depression or other forms of OCD.
Several other medications, including lithium, dopamine-blocking neuroleptics such as Zyprexa and Risperdal, and the alcohol- and opiate-dependence drug naltrexone (Revia), have also shown promise for treating trichotillomania.
3. Support Groups
Individuals with trichotillomania may feel ashamed and alone. Participating in in-person or online support groups not only helps boost patient self-esteem, it also gives them an opportunity to learn from others who are going through the same thing. Group members can share advice and anecdotes about things that have helped them keep their symptoms at bay. Additionally, group members can support each other when someone is trying to resist the urge to give in to a trigger, or someone is experiencing a severe bout.
4. Relaxation Training
There’s a significant link between anxiety and hair pulling. Deep breathing, yoga, hypnosis and meditation can help individuals relax and alleviate stress.
For most people, trichotillomania is difficult to live with, but therapies and support can help. The fact that many celebrities suffer from the condition is a prime example that trichotillomania doesn’t need to stop people from living full, rewarding lives.
Hair Replacement for Trichotillomania Sufferers
We have worked with many individuals that suffer from Trichotillomania and a lot of times they request a hair replacement option that will help conceal their bald spots on their scalp. Transitions Hair Loss Centers can help find the right solution by offering many options that can match anyone’s lifestyle. Feel free to contact one of our studios today for a free visit. Contact us by clicking here.
Photo Credit: Harsh Patel Via Flickr Creative Commons