What is Trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania is a psychological condition where sufferers feel compelled to pull out their own hair. And this can range from the hair on their head to anywhere on the body,from eyelashes to body hair.
Why do people develop the condition Trichotillomania?
Trichologist Sally-Ann Tarver reveals that condition often starts in childhood, “as a form of comfort, stress relief, release or more often than not a cry for help or act of self harm.”
This then can become a learnt habit to react to situations this was, meaning it can be extremely hard for sufferers to not pull at their hair when stressful situations occur.
According to NHS online some experts see the condition as a form of ‘addiction’ – the more they pull out their hair, the more they want to continue to do so.
For whatever reason, women are far more likely to suffer from the condition than men, and this will usually start in children between 9-13 years old.
What is relation between Trichotillomania and OCD?
Trichotillomania exists in relation to OCD, but it is not an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as such; although it “involves irresistible urges which can co-exist with OCD,” explains OCD UK’s charity page.
“Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder, a psychological condition where the person is unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action.
“They will experience an intense urge to pull their hair out and growing tension until they do. After pulling out hair, they'll feel a sense of relief. Pulling out hair on the head leaves bald patches.”
What are the symptoms of a Trichotillomania sufferer?
When someone begins to develop hair pulling urges, they will often try and hide it from friends and family.
Trichotillomania Support Online describe: “These are secretive conditions and are often kept hidden with make-up and avoidance of eye contact.”
But as the habit persists, close ones may be able to see the physical effects of the condition, especially when the sufferers pull the scalp and facial hair.
Sally Anne explains:
“It is easy for the trained eye to spot. In the beginning, the tell-tale signs are thin areas of hair growth at the crown, fringe, behind the ears or the nape hairline, these are the classic areas. A close inspection of the areas usually reveals a lot of ‘stubble’ or hair which has broken close to scalp level.
“A GP may frequently diagnose this as a 'fungal scalp infection'.
“A person may complain of hair loss or bald patches, yet the lost hair is not seen when washing, combing or styling. Piles of hair may however, be found in the bed, bedroom, next to the sofa or where the sufferer uses a computer or makes phone calls.
“These are the common times and places when a sufferer will pull their hair, often when concentrating on something else. Of course there may be no hair found anywhere to give the game away, some sufferers actually eat it.”
You may also notice a change in their behavior and mood, too.
As explained, the condition can be linked to stress anxiety and depression, so you may notice they appear tense and emotionally low.
Furthermore, the effects of balding may cause their self esteem to plummet, so loved ones may pick up on their low self confidence.
Physical symptoms include missing hair from:
• pubic area
• underarm area
• chest or tummy
• face, such as a beard or moustache
Are there any cures currently for Trichotillomania?
Like many other mental illnesses, there is no distinct cure for trichotillomania. There are however many ways in which those with the condition can begin to figure out the causes behind their compulsion, and hopefully work towards curbing the urge altogether.
This can be easier with children and with people who’ve recently developed the condition, as the longer they’ve relied on hair pulling to cope with stress or anxiety, the harder it can be to break away from that reaction.
Habits like such can be exceptionally hard to break, but it can be done with the right support and help.
What ways can sufferers treat Trichotillomania?
Sally Anne explains: “There is no single treatment, management or therapy which works for every sufferer.
"Some forms of help which have worked for sufferers include counselling - to find out what the root of the problem is and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – to try and re-wire the brain to eliminate the habit.”
Trichotillomania treatment and therapy techniques include:
Psychotherapy – talking through emotional problems and mental health conditions to help get to the route of and overcome them
HRT – Habit Reversal Training / CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to try and education you on why you act the way you do, and aim to stop certain habits and replace them with new, healthier responses to triggers
Group support therapy – gathering with other sufferes to share tour experience and learn more about other’s conditions as well as your own
Hypnotherapy – attempting to reverse hair pulling habit with hypnosis
Medication – while there are some medications available, these are wide scale or recommended to all. Speak to you GP for more information
Wigs - covering the scalp to prevent touching the hair such as wigs, hats
Nails - Wearing long nails to make it harder to pull at hairs
Shaving - some even go to the extreme to shave their heads in order to eliminate the routine
Where can people seek help for Trichotillomania?
If you identify with suffering from this condition, it's important to speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
Similarily, if you notice a loved one with these symptons, direct them to help lines below, and encourage them to seek medical and professional help.
Call: 07910 114739
Call: 0845 120 3778 or 0345 120 3778.
The TLC Foundation – for body focused repeititve behaviours:
The Cotswolds Trichology Centre