Trichotillomania: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments


What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is a mental disorder that involves an irresistible urge to pull hair. The most common areas for pulling hair are the scalp, eyelashes, and eyebrows but may involve any hair on the body.

Trichotillomania is a type of impulse control disorder. Impulse control disorder is a mental illness that involves repeated failure to fight impulses, or urges, to act in a dangerous manner. People with this disorder know that they can hurt themselves or others by acting on impulse, but they cannot stop themselves.

In children, trichotillomania occurs in boys and girls. In adults, this is more common in women than men.

Signs and Symptoms of Trichotillomania

A person with trichotillomania cannot control or resist the urge to pull the hair on his/her body. Other symptoms that may occur with this disorder include:

  • Tension before pulling hair or when trying to resist the urge to pull hair.
  • Feelings of relief, satisfaction, and / or pleasure after pulling hair.
  • The appearance of the area where the hair has been pulled out
  • Other related behaviors such as checking hair roots, twirling hair, pulling hair between teeth, chewing hair, or eating hair (called trichophagia)
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Causes of Trichotillomania

The exact cause of trichotillomania is unknown, but it seems to involve biological and behavioral factors. Research has found a potential connection between impulse control disorders, such as trichotillomania, and certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain send messages to each other. This chemical imbalance can affect how the brain controls impulses. It is also believed that stress can trigger impulsive behavior, and that some people continue to behave out of habit.

In some cases, people with trichotillomania also have other disorders such as depression or anxiety. This suggests that there might be a relationship between certain diseases and the development of trichotillomania. In addition, the risk of developing trichotillomania is slightly higher in people who have relatives with the same disorder, indicating a tendency for the disorder to be inherited.

Trichotillomania Treatments

The main treatment for trichotillomania is a type of behavioral therapy called habit reversal training. With this approach, people with trichotillomania learn to identify when and where they have the urge to pull hair. This technique also teaches relaxation as a way to reduce some of the tension associated with the urge.

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Some therapists also use cognitive therapy as a way to overcome any distorted thoughts that might add to the stress that triggers behavior.

In addition, medicines can be used as part of a treatment program. An antidepressant drug called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be useful in helping to curb very intense urges.

*USA Health Articles does not provide health advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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