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Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder): Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Trichotillomania

  • Posted on- Dec 13, 2014
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Written by site author.

Trichotillomania is a psychological disorder. The term trichotillomania is commonly not known to everybody but its symptoms are somewhat familiar to many of us. In trichotillomania, patients feel strong compulsion to pull out hair from their head and other parts of the body. Generally people mistake such symptoms with bad habits failing to realize that they have got a type of psychological disorder. Anybody of any age or background can get affected with trichotillomania. Even children have also been seen affected with this disorder.

Causes of Trichotillomania

  • It maybe because of abnormalities of brain functions. Brain areas related to emotion, habit formation, movement and impulse control might be affected and causing this.
  • There might be an involvement of serotonin and dopamine.
  • Depression or anxiety could be one more cause.
  • Genes might be playing a role. 

In extreme cases of trichotillomania where hair pulling, for example from scalp, becomes severe and leads to many patchy bald spots which cause embarrassment, and disturbs personal and social life. Trichotillomania is a long term (chronic) psychological disorder which if goes untreated, can cause other serious psychological problems and get worse with time.

Symptoms of Trichotillomania

After observing the causes, it is important to check all the symptoms of trichotillomania before starting treatment.

  • Trichotillomania patients are seen picking their skin, chewing their lips and sometime biting their nails or eating pulled out hair.
  • Trichotillomania patients often get a feeling of tension before pulling hair or when trying to resist the urge to pull hair, and feel relieved after pulling their hair.
  • In most of the cases, patients are not even aware of their behavior. It becomes so automatic that they just do it during the moments of tension or stress, while watching TV or movie or reading.
  • Mostly, circumstances and emotions trigger hair pulling. And certain positions or behavior pattern may also trigger hair pulling, such as resting head on hand or brushing hair.
  • Patients play with pulled out hair or rubbing it across lips or face.
  • Sometimes patients pull hairs from pets or dolls or from materials, such as clothes or blankets, might be an indication of trichotillomania
  • A number of patients who are suffering from trichotillomania pull hair in private and generally try to hide the disorder from others. 

Treatment of Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania may not always be severe and is generally manageable but for some patients, the compulsive urge to pull hair might become overpowering. Usually, symptoms of trichotillomania keep coming and going, and if proper treatment is taken, chance of relapse significantly reduces. In many instances, certain treatment options have helped many people reduce their hair pulling and in some cases it never came back.

Habit reversal training (HRT) is used to treat behavior disorders by psychotherapists and is widely used and immensely helpful in trichotillomania cases. As the name suggests, it is used to change the behavior patterns which have been formed by the patients causing the disorder with some other habits. During the habit reversal therapy, patients become more aware of their thinking and behaviors, and gain control over the impulse to pull their hair by changing it to something else.

Cognitive therapy, which is about finding out triggers which compel the patients to pull their hair and helping them to learn from new behaviors. By forming new habits with repetition, the actual shape of brain changes and new brain pathways are built.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) which is based on accepting and committing to the solutions. It helps trichotillomania patients by making them accept and become mindful of their hair- pulling urges then work on the ways to improve their behaviors and stay committed to them.

NLP or hypnotherapy is also very useful in helping patients recognize the stressful situations which causes them to pull their hair and learn to relax and work on the solutions to deal with the problems.

There might be a requirement for medications to control trichotillomania symptoms which is something a therapist or doctor decides. They may prescribe antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or clomipramine (Anafranil) and other medication to improve neurotransmitters e.g. N-acetylcysteine, and olanzapine (Zyprexa) or aripiprazole, etc.

For Treatment: Book an appointment with Psychiatrists in Delhi/NCR


user profile image
21-04-2017 08:17 PM

I had suffered from trichotillomania, I developed a habit of plucking my hair. I ensured some steps and awareness of this disorder has decreased my frequency of hair-pulling.

user profile image
12-04-2017 09:40 PM

I had went through hypnotherapy and that procedure is very useful in helping patients to fight against stressful situations.

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