Trichotillomania is also referred to as Hair Pulling Disorder.
Trichotillomania is often more common in teenagers and young adults and affects girls more often than boys.
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
Sufferers may pull out there hair on there head or other places such as their eyebrows, eyelashes, genital area, beard or moustache. After doing this the sufferer reports feeling a sense of relief, this can be done in response to a stressful situation or sometimes be done without even thinking about it. This can trigger feelings of shame and low self-esteem, many of the sufferers may try to keep the condition to themselves.
Causes of Trichotillomania
It isn’t entirely clear what the causes are but it could be:
- Stress or anxiety response
- A chemical imbalance in the brain similar to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- A type of self-harm to seek relief from emotional distress
For some, this can be an addiction.
When to see a GP
You should see a GP when you notice this behaviour in yourself or a loved one. In children, you must take them to a GP immediately if they start eating the hair due to hairballs being formed in the stomach which can lead to serious illness.
Treatment for Trichotillomania
This disorder is most commonly treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This will aim to help you replace a bad habit with something that isn’t harmful. Treatment usually involves:
- Keeping a diary of your hair pulling
- Working out the triggers for your hair pulling and learning how to avoid them
- replacing hair pulling with another action, like squeezing a stress ball
- Involving loved ones to provide emotional support and encouragement
Antidepressants are no longer considered to be an effective treatment for Trichotillomania.
Things you can try yourself
Here are some tips from people with Trichotillomania that might help when you feel the urge to pull your hair:
- Squeeze a stress ball or something similar
- Form a ball with your fist and tighten the muscles in that arm
- Use a fidget toy
- Wear a bandana or a tight-fitting hat, such as a beanie
- Come up with a saying that you repeat out loud until the urge to pull passes
- Take a soothing bath to ease any stress or anxiety
- Practise deep breathing until the urge to pull goes away
- Put plasters on your fingertips
- Cut your hair short
It may also help to open up about your trich to people you trust, as hiding it can sometimes make your anxiety worse.
Many people who have learned to manage their trich say that speaking to others about the condition led to a reduction in hair-pulling.
The charity Trichotillomania Support has a busy online forum where you can get advice and support from other people affected by the condition. It also has lots of information on treatments and self-help advice.