What Is Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a condition in which people feel compelled to pull out their hair, resulting in noticeable hair loss. People with this disorder may have bald patches on the scalp, face, or other areas of their bodies.

hair pulling trichotillomaniaNamed by the French Dermatologist Hallepeau in 1889, trichotillomania is classified as an impulse control disorder, which means that the person has the urge to perform a certain action but isn’t able to resist that urge. Individuals with this disorder characteristically experience tension prior to pulling and relief or gratification after removing the hair.

The severity of trichotillomania varies from person to person—some people pull out just one hair at a time, while others pull out dozens at once. They may even feel pain when pulling out hair, but this doesn’t stop them from doing it again. In some cases, people with trichotillomania will also use tweezers or other tools to pluck out their hair.

The hair-pulling can be focused or automatic. When the hair pulling is focused or goal-directed, sufferers intentionally pull out the hair to relieve the tension they are feeling. Meanwhile, when the hair-pulling is automatic, sufferers pull out the hair without knowing it. Often, this happens out of frustration, anxiety or boredom.

What Causes Trichotillomania?

The exact cause of trichotillomania is still not known, but researchers believe it may have something to do with genetics, brain chemistry, environmental factors or a combination of these things.

Some studies show that people who suffer from depression and anxiety may be more likely to develop trichotillomania. Furthermore, research shows that hair pulling typically occurs in response to stress or anxiety, but sometimes it happens for no apparent reason at all.

What Are the Symptoms of Trichotillomania?

Some of the signs and symptoms of trichotillomania are:

  • Repeatedly pulling the hair on the head and other body parts, such as eyebrows, eyelashes, and legs
  • Hair thinning, shortened hair or bald patches on the scalp
  • Sparse hair on lashes or browse
  • Rituals before pulling the hair, such as holding or twirling the hair
  • Biting and/or swallowing the pulled hair
  • Feeling tension prior to pulling the hair or when resisting the urge to pull
  • Feeling relieved or gratified after removing the hair
  • Picking skin or biting nails or lips (in some cases)

Many sufferers pull out their hair in private. This is why their loved ones do not learn of the issue until visible effects, such as bald areas on the scalp, are seen.

While trichotillomania is not contagious or life-threatening, it can lead to emotional distress. In rare cases, it can cause serious medical conditions, particularly when sufferers swallow the pulled hair.

The hair loss or bald patches can also affect one’s appearance and self-esteem. In the long run, it can interfere with one’s personal and social life.

Are you worried you might be suffering from trichotillomania? Or do you want to learn more about this condition? Please call us on 01 6793618 or email us at info@universalhairclinic.ie to schedule a consultation with our trichologist.