Trichotillomania is a repetitive, compulsive behavior also known as ‘hair-pulling disorder’.
People with the condition have a frequent, often uncontrollable desire to pull out their own hair. Attention is generally focused on the scalp. But it can also include eyebrows, eyelashes, and even beards.
The condition typically affects people during their childhood and early adult years. In general, it is more common in women than in men.
It’s estimated that 1-2 percent of the US population experience Trichotillomania at some point in their lives.
The behavior may stop on its own over time, but risks returning if the causes are not treated.
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
People with the condition feel an intense, often irresistible urge to pull out their hair. Stress may intensify the behavior, and relief can be felt when hair is pulled out. In other cases, people do it without understanding why.
The pulling out of hair can produce bald patches on the scalp. These can vary in size and shape – and may be more prevalent on one side than the other.
The condition often creates feelings of shame and embarrassment. Many sufferers feel a loss of self-esteem and social standing. This can also intensify the behavior.
As a result – many people do not seek professional help.
Causes of Trichotillomania
There is no single cause of Trichotillomania. Research continues to better understand the condition. Some of the known triggers include:
A method of dealing with stress and anxiety
A mild form of self-harm as a way of coping with emotional distress
A chemical imbalance in the brain, akin to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Changes in hormones caused by puberty
Aside from physical pain and damage, Trichotillomania can also be very addictive. For many people, the urge to pull out their hair grows stronger every time they do it.
Effective Treatment Options
For sufferers of Trichotillomania, there are two main treatment options. These are behavioral therapy and medication. In some cases, the two are used in combination.
Behavioral therapy helps sufferers understand the causes of their hair-pulling. It also teaches ways to fight the urge. This can include ‘substitute behaviors’ – replacing hair-pulling with less harmful actions. Goals and incentives can also be helpful ways to break long-term habits.
Medication can be an effective short-term treatment. But it will often fail if not combined with behavioral therapy. For some, medication can reduce the anxiety which is triggering the hair-pulling. By decreasing the symptoms, therapy can then work towards eliminating the behavior altogether. If you suffer from Trichotillomania, we recommend seeking help. Professional treatment can reduce the effects – and improve your quality of life.
At Transitions Hair Loss Centers, we work with many people affected by hair-pulling disorders. We offer private, expert consultations for men and women of all ages. By assessing your needs, we can recommend ways to restore your lost hair – and self-confidence. For further information and to find a location near you, click here.
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