Many people play with their hair when they’re nervous. Some people twist it or chew on it. But some people take this a step forward and pull their hair out on purpose! OUCH! Why would someone do that? The answer is trichotillomania, a psychological disorder in which a person feels compelled to pull out their own hair.
What Is Trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania is a compulsive disorder in which a person feels a strong, often irresistible, urge to pull hair out from their scalp, eyebrows, or other places where they have hair.
In some ways, it’s similar to biting your nails when nervous — the person is trying to quell anxiety in a way that is harmful to their body. However, trichotillomania isn’t just a bad habit. It’s a compulsion, which means the person can’t make themselves stop doing it no matter how much they want to stop.
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
Trichotillomania goes beyond the hair-pulling behavior itself. People who suffer from this disorder feel such strong urges to pull their hair out that it interferes with their ability to function in their lives.
For example, a person who has trichotillomania may be distracted at school or work by thoughts of when they can go to the bathroom to pull hair out or fear that people notice bald patches and might ask them about them.
Recurrent pulling out of hair. The behavior occurs over and over.
Inability to function in one’s professional, personal, or social life because of the behavior. The sufferer may avoid friends and family, spend most of their free time pulling out hair, or lose performance points at work or school because of their focus on the behavior.
Difficulty stopping or decreasing the behavior. The sufferer may want to stop, but find it difficult or impossible not to engage in the behavior.
In addition, the hair-pulling behavior must not be the result of substance abuse or be due to a different mental health issue. For example, if a person who suffers from bipolar disorder pulls out their hair whenever they are manic, that would not be considered trichotillomania because the behavior is due to their bipolar disorder.
Causes of Trichotillomania
Psychiatrists believe there may be genetic or other biological causes of this disorder. In many cases, however, it begins as a stress reduction method. For some people, pulling out their hair helps reduce anxiety, which then causes them to engage in the behavior whenever they are anxious.
It’s important to note that people are not always aware they are engaging in the behavior. Some people pull out their hair while watching TV or doing other things that aren’t engaging their full attention and don’t realize what they’ve done unless someone points it out or they see that they have a bald spot!
Treatment for Trichotillomania
It’s best to see a psychiatrist or psychologist for help with hair-pulling behavior. Not all mental health professionals are familiar with this disorder, so it’s important to find someone who specializes in it.
Therapists who help with trichotillomania often use a type of therapy called habit reversal therapy. This therapy involves helping the person become more aware of the emotions and situations that trigger hair-pulling behavior and come up with a plan to engage in a different type of behavior when those situations arise.
Have you or someone you love lost hair because of trichotillomania? Visit Transition Hair Loss Centers today for help with hair replacement. To find a location near you click here.
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