1 What is Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder)?

Trichotillomania ( trik-o-til-o-MAY- nee-uh) is a condition that involves reoccurring urges one has to pull their hair from the scalp, eybrows or other areas of the human body hair is bound to be found.  These urges are quite irresistible. 

Hair pulling from the scalp can leave  patchy bald spots which usually causes distress and  interferes with social work and functioning.  Many individuals with trichotillomania go through a great deal disguising their hair loss

For a certain group of people this condition can be mild, unproblematic and manageable. For others however, the urge to pull their hair off is very strong and overwhelming. Certain treatments have helped many to reduce the hair pulling or even more so, end it.

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2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of trichotillomania include the following: 

  • Repeated pulling of hair out is the most common and visible symptom of this condition. Typically hair is pulled out from one's scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes or basically any body part covered with hair. Sites can vary with time. 
  • An increased sense of tension is also observed before pulling or when an individual tries to resist pulling  and a sense of satisfaction or relief after the hair has been pulled. Shortened hair or bald spots on the scalp or other areas of the body including sparse or missing eyebrows and eyelashes. 
  • There is also a preference for specific hair types, rituals that accompany hair pulling  or patterns of hair-pulling, biting, chewing or eating pulled out hair.
  • Many people with this condition will  pull out their hair and rub it across their face. Most people with this condition will also pick their skin, chew their nails and bite their lips. 
  • Sometimes pulling hair from dolls, pets  and from other materials such as blankets and clothes is observed. Many people with trichotillomania pull hair in private  and are generally willing to keep their condition unexposed.

3 Causes

The cause of trichotillomania is still unclear. But it probably arises from the  combination of genetic and environmental factors like many complex disorders. Abnormalities that exist in the natural brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamin may play a role in causing this condition.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Trichotillomania or hair-pulling is often self-diagnosed, but you will have to visit your doctor or mental health specialist for a proper diagnosis to continue treatment.

The first stage to treating any disease is to seek assistance as is with the case of trichotillomania. Initially one must see their doctor or dermatologist and be further referred to a mental healthprovider as these suggestions are known to make the medical appointment easier. 

It is very important for one to make a list of the symptoms which they are experiencing even if the have no relation to hair pulling itself. Trichotillomania is known to not only cause physical symptoms, but  psychological symptoms as well. It is therefore very important to notice what initially triggers the hair-pulling, how one has dealt  or tried to deal with the condition and the factor that make it better or worse. 

Major key information is to be given to the doctor such as:

  • any recent stresses they might have experienced,
  • whether hair-pulling trait is an element of their family.

It is also vital to make a list of all vitamins, herbs  or other supplements one is taking to counter the condition.This includes dosage and the length of time one has been taking them. 

It is always important for one to make a list of questions before seeing the doctor, this is done to make most of their limited time. Some  necessary questions to ask the doctor include the following:

  • What might have caused the condition initially?
  • How to diagnose the condition? 
  • What is the best way to fight against any urges of pulling hair?
  • Any daily routines or change in lifestyle that might reduce any symptoms?

5 Treatment

Research and treatment of trichotillomania is widely limited. However, certain treatment options have aided many people to reduce the severity of the hair pulling or stop it completely. The primary psychotherapy for trichotillomania is  Psychotherapy Habit Reversal training. 

This therapy helps one how to learn to recognize the various situations that may lead to them pulling their hair. This therapy is done with the purpose of substituting other reactions instead. For example, one might clench their fist to fight the urge to pull their hair. Another way is by directing their hands from their hair to their ears. 

In some instances habit reversal therapy can be blended with other forms of therapy, including:

  • Cognitive therapy which can help one challenge and examine their distorted beliefs they may have in relation to their hair-pulling.
  • Another form of therapy is acceptance and committance therapy. This therapy helps one to to learn and accept their hair-pulling urges without ever acting on them. 

No known medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration in relation to the treatment of trichotillomania. However, some medications can help to reduce the various factors that may aggravate the condition.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with trichotillomania.

Many people with trichitillomania report a feeling of lonliness in their hair-pulling experience. These individuls can be advised to join trichotillomania victim support groups so that in meeting others with the condition they have, may relate to their feelings. 

One might also ask their doctor for a possible recommendation or  visit Trichotillomania learning website to find a support group.

7 Risks and Complications

There are various factors that tend to increase the risks of trichotillomania, some of which include the following:

  • Family history. It is well established that genetics plays an important role in the increase of risk of trichotillomania. It is very common for this condition to affect one who has a close relationship with a victim of trichotillomania. 
  • Age. trichotillomania develops just before or during the early teenage years, most cases happen between the ages 11 to 13 and is often a life-long problem. Hair pulling can also be common among infants but in these circumstances is usually mild and gradually disappears without any form of treatment. 
  • Negative emotion. For many many with trichotillomania, hair pulling seems to be one of the ways of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings such as stress,  anxiety, tension, lonliness, fatigue and frustration. People with trichotillomania often find great relief in hair- pulling, they find it satifying and provide to a certain degree, a measure of comfort as a form of positive rienforcement. 

As a result, they do not stop this habit as it provides the relief they acheive by doing it (maintain positive feelings). Other disorders can also play a role in the risk of trichotillomania. These disorders are in the form of anxiety, depression and stress.

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