Trichotillomania is a chronic disorder characterized by the recurrent pulling of one’s own hair. An individual can pull their hair from places such their head, eyelashes, or even eyebrows; less common places include their facial hair, arms, legs, underarms and pubic areas. Trichotillomania is common across females but males may also experience it. The most common and major symptom is the act of pulling hair to the point where it results in noticeable hair loss.
There are two types of trichotillomania. The first one is called Automatic because those who pull their hair don’t even notice that they are doing it. It almost comes as an involuntary movement. The other one is called Focused because it involves pulling out hair in order to release stress, as it actually provides relief.
Some risk factors in developing trichotillomania include a family history; those who have close relatives with a psychological disorder can be more prone to developing psychological disorders due to genetics. Trichotillomania can also be age-related, as teenagers are more likely to develop trichotillomania. This condition can also be maintained by positive reinforcement, as individuals who feel good while pulling their hair will want to continue and do it as often as possible. Another risk factor is a pre-existing psychological disorder such as anxiety or depression. Trichotillomania becomes a way to de-stress, as individuals having negative emotions will find that pulling their hair is a way to deal with those emotions.
Although trichotillomania is not a serious psychological disorder, it can have a significant impact on an individual’s functioning in everyday life. People with trichotillomania can experience emotional distress and report feeling humiliated and embarrassed. They sometimes lack confidence due to their disorder. Victims can also experience social problems as they fear someone finding out that they pull out their hair. As a result, they constantly cover up their bald patches with their hair or wear fake eyelashes. There are also some health risk factors associated with trichotillomania. For example, individuals pulling out their hair can experience skin and hair damage as constant hair pulling can result in skin infections and can affect hair growth. In addition, there can be complications with people who eat their hair after pulling it, as it can develop into hairballs in their digestive tract and result in vomiting, weight loss and even death.
Trichotillomania can be successfully treated with the help of psychotherapy, in which individuals learn to recognize when and why they will pull their hair and consciously learn how to develop alternative healthy behaviors. Examples of therapies include cognitive therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.
Written by By Maria Evangelopoulos