Trichotillomania is a type of impulse control disorder. People with these disorders know that they can do damage by acting on the impulses, but they cannot stop themselves. They may pull out their hair when they’re stressed as a way to try to soothe themselves.
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
Besides repeated hair pulling, other symptoms may include:
Feeling tense before pulling hair or when trying to resist the urge to pull hair
Feeling relieved, satisfied, or pleased after acting on the impulse to pull hair
Distress or problems in work or social life due to hair pulling
Bare patches where the hair has been pulled out
Behaviors such as inspecting the hair root, twirling the hair, pulling the hair between the teeth, chewing on hair, or eating hair
Many people who have trichotillomania try to deny they have a problem and may attempt to hide their hair loss by wearing hats, scarves, and false eyelashes and eyebrows.
What Causes Trichotillomania?
The exact cause of trichotillomania isn’t known. It may be related to abnormalities in brain pathways that link areas involved in emotional regulation, movement, habit formation, and impulse control.
Some people with trichotillomania may also have depression or anxiety. Trichotillomania is slightly more likely if it runs in your family.
How Is Trichotillomania Diagnosed?
Trichotillomania is diagnosed based on the presence of its signs and symptoms. There is no specific test for it.
A doctor might refer someone who has symptoms of trichotillomania to a psychiatrist or psychologist, who can interview the person and see if they might have an impulse control disorder.
What Is the Treatment for Trichotillomania?
The main treatment for trichotillomania is a type of behavior therapy called habit reversal training. Basically, this means replacing a bad habit with something else that’s not harmful.
With this approach, people with trichotillomania first learn to identify when and where they have the urge to pull hair. They also learn to relax and do something else, that doesn’t hurt them, as a way to help ease tension when they feel the urge to pull their hair.