Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder) is a disorder that is not very well known, although approximately 1 in 100 people may have this disorder. While the exact cause is not identified, genetic factors may play a part in this condition, along with environmental factors and stress.
People who have trichotillomania have a compulsion to pull their hair out and it is difficult for others to understand why they “can’t just stop”. This condition often starts between the ages of 9-13 and may continue lifelong. Not only is it disfiguring, put there can be serious medical consequences. Due to feelings of shame, humiliation and anxiety associated with this condition, sometimes it is difficult for those who are affected to seek treatment. Some of the symptoms of trichotillomania include:
- Pulling hair from the scalp, eyebrows or other areas
- Biting, chewing or eating the pulled out hair
- Picking skin, biting nails or chewing lips may occur
Sometimes the hair is pulled out automatically or without the person being aware of this. Negative emotions may trigger the hair pulling or others may experience a positive feeling from the hair pulling. Fortunately, help is available with therapy that is tailored to the individual. Habit reversal training, or cognitive therapy, is very successful in treating this condition and psychotherapy/hypnotherapy treatments focused for children or adults can also be very beneficial.