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Your hair is your crowning glory. It is called a crown because it is placed on top of your head. Your hair also makes a lot of difference to your appearance. So what is trichotillomania?

However, there are some people who absentmindedly and uncontrollably do hair pulling. If you are unable to stop pulling your hair, you may have a serious mental problem.

What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is a mental health disorder (impulse control disorder) that is manifested through excessive hair pulling. This is also called hair-pulling disorder. This disorder can range from mild to severe.

Hair pulling is not only limited to the hair on top of your head. You may also pull hair in your eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair found in other parts of your body. Trichotillomania may start during the teenage years. Some children may tend to eat their hair after pulling it out.

Individuals with this disorder know that they can cause damage to themselves if they constantly have hair-pulling urges.  However, they are unable to control themselves.

Trichotillomania may be unnoticeable. You may be sitting on your couch and watching TV. You then look down and see your couch covered with your hair. This is called automatic trichotillomania.

Others like pulling hair because it makes them feel good. They may prefer to do this when they are alone. They could be fixated with a particular type of hair. This is called focused trichotillomania.

Some individuals with trichotillomania may tend to bite their nails or pick their skin excessively. Trichotillomania may be a reaction to stress, loneliness, or experiencing negative emotions.

If you have a hair-pulling disorder, you struggle to control the strong urge to pull your hair. You may tend to continue with this behavior regardless of its negative consequences.

Signs and Symptoms of Trichotillomania

  • Uneven hair on the head and other parts of the body
  • Losing a lot of hair abruptly
  • Hair twirling, pulling of hair between teeth, or eating hair
  • Hairs are all over the floor, pillows, and other places of the house
  • Their hands are usually placed near their heads
  • They tend to wear hats or head covers to hide their bald spots
  • Pulling out of fibers of blankets, pillows, or hair of dolls
  • Frequently looks in the mirror
  • Low self-esteem and ashamed of their physical appearance
  • Feeling tense or anxious before pulling hair
  • Feeling happy and relieved after pulling their hair
  • Showing preference for a particular hair type or texture

Causes and Risk Factors of Trichotillomania

The cause of developing trichotillomania is still unknown. One possible cause could be changed in the person’s brain pathways. These pathways are linked to emotion management, movement, habits, and impulse control. You are at risk of developing hair-pulling disorder due to the following reasons:

  • Age: Trichotillomania may start at a young age between 10-13 years old. Having this disorder may last a lifetime.
  • Genes: Trichotillomania may be hereditary. You can develop this disorder if a member of your family has it too.
  • Other Mental Health Disorders: If you have trichotillomania, it is possible that you also have other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Stress: Trichotillomania can be triggered by extreme stress in some people. Stressful events may include family conflicts, domestic abuse, or the death of a loved one.

Diagnosis of Trichotillomania

A professional healthcare provider is the best person to diagnose you. A mental healthcare professional will check if you have been pulling your hair for a long time and maybe feeling upset about it. They will also check if you have tried to stop pulling your hair but failed countless times. Before a mental health diagnosis, you have to undergo a scalp test to rule out scalp infection or other medical complications that could cause hair loss.

Complications

Aside from possibly feeling ashamed, here are other complications that you may experience because of this disorder:

  • You may constantly be having work-related problems
  • Tendency to be shy away from social gatherings
  • You may decline new job offers or job promotions because you are embarrassed about your condition
  • You may experience skin and hair damage. Due to constant pulling, scars can leave marks on your scalp and affect the growth of your hair.
  • Hairballs or trichobezoars are large, matted wads of hair that may clog your digestive tract from eating hair. Constantly doing this can cause weight loss, vomiting, intestinal obstruction, or worse, death.   

How to Stop Hair Pulling

Excessive hair pulling can eventually change your appearance. You may notice bald patches on your head. Here are some tips on how to stop trichotillomania:

Focus Your Attention on Something Else

If you have a mild case of hair-pulling disorder, you may replace body-focused repetitive behaviors with a different action. When you feel the urge to pull your hair, use a fidget spinner or stress ball to occupy yourself.

Recognize Triggers

The sight of hair can trigger hair pulling. When you feel the urge to pull your hair, control yourself. This can be hard to do, but you should try it. If you can easily spot the triggers, you can prepare for them and plan how you can change your reaction.

Meditation

Recollect yourself when you realize that you tend to pull hair because of stress and anxiety. Take a quick pause and control your thoughts when you feel calmer, your urge to pull your hair decreases.

Meditation is an effective stress reliever and a good coping strategy. Doing regular mediation can help you cope with the urge to pull your hair.

Tie or Cover Your Hair

If you constantly have urges to pull your hair, try to cover or tie your hair. This makes your hair less accessible for pulling. When you braid your hair or wear a hat, this becomes an obstacle making it hard for you to pull.  

This obstacle can cause you to pause and will discourage you from hair pulling. If you tend to pull the hair off your eyebrows or eyelashes, wearing eyeglasses can help. In addition, if your hair starts to thin, you can use hair growth products or wear wigs. 

Seek Professional Help

Most often, those with trichotillomania also have other mental health disorders. They may also have recurring anxiety. Doing coping techniques at home may not be enough to stop hair pulling. A professional is the only person who can assess your condition correctly.  

Trichotillomania is a condition that may require both psychotherapy and medication. Proper diagnosis and treatment are important for you to experience lasting relief.

Treatment for Trichotillomania

Therapy

Trichotillomania is often treated with Habit Reversal Therapy. Habit Reversal Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This treatment aids in understanding your emotions and the triggers that cause you to hair pulling. This therapy can help you learn skills on how to stop the pulling behavior.

With habit reversal therapy, you get to practice less harmful habits when you are feeling stressed. Another therapy that can be used to treat trichotillomania is Acceptance and Commitment therapy. This therapy will help you accept the urges you feel and the desire to pull hair. Also, this type of therapy will help you to commit to stop pulling your hair fully.

Medication

In some cases, a psychiatrist can recommend that you take antidepressant medications along with therapy.

There are no FDA-approved medications for trichotillomania yet. However, some medications that may control the symptoms:

  • Atypical  antipsychotics
  • N-acetyl-cysteine (an amino acid supplement)

Final Thoughts

You may be ashamed of the way you look because of hair-pulling. You may have tried the tips above, but you still don’t know how to stop trichotillomania. It is time you contact Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC).

KCC is here to help you. KCC can help you manage and overcome trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is not just a bad habit. It’s a mental health disorder. You need to receive treatment for you to get better.

Whether it’s you or your loved one who has trichotillomania, get in touch with KCC today to relieve you of your symptoms and live a better life.

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