Trichotillomania, also known as compulsive hair-pulling or hair-pulling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to pull your own hair. The disorder can occur both consciously and unconsciously. It can be triggered by stress, boredom, anxiety and various other circumstances. In fact, some women who suffer from this disorder can engage in the practice without even fully realizing they’re doing so.
Those who deal with this disorder have reported feeling embarrassed and ashamed. These feelings then lead to isolation as those suffering from trichotillomania often avoid social situations. The good news is that trichotillomania is not as uncommon as you may think, and there are treatment options out there that may work for you.
The first step is reaching out to a trusted doctor to discuss your condition and options.
The main symptom of trichotillomania is pulling your own hair. The act of pulling one’s hair can occur on any part of your body that hair grows on, such as the head and eyebrows. While these 2 locations are the most common areas, they aren’t the only ones where it can occur. The face and pubic area can also experience the effects of trichotillomania.
Symptoms of the trichotillomania disorder include:
Trichotillomania can occur at any time, but generally appears between 10 and 13 years of age and can last a lifetime. According to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, 1 in 50 people experiences trichotillomania at some point in their life.
While the number of people that this condition affects in late childhood or early puberty is roughly the same, women are 80 to 90 percent more likely to experience this disorder in their adult years. Studies have also shown that hormonal changes that naturally occur during the menstrual cycle can trigger flare-ups of trichotillomania.
The actual cause of trichotillomania is unclear, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, trichotillomania is considered a complex mental disorder and may be caused by both environmental and genetic factors. People who suffer from this illness may also feel the urge to bite their nails, pick at their skin and chew on their lips.
Trichotillomania treatments can be more complex as it takes time and practice to learn the triggers of this disorder and find other coping mechanisms.
While there is no cure for trichotillomania, there are a wide array of options that you can use to manage your desire to pull your hair. It’s common to try several different strategies before finding the treatment that works for you.
Some common treatment options include:
Stopping the habit is usually the first step when treating trichotillomania. You can start by focusing on learning your triggers (such as stress, boredom or anxiety) that lead to the hair-pulling and then substituting the pulling behavior for something else.
For example, some sufferers find that when they feel the urge to pull their hair, they focus that urge on another activity, such as snapping a rubber band around their wrist or squeezing a stress ball. Keeping track of your hair-pulling episodes and writing them down in a journal is also a great way to figure out what triggers you.
Consider reaching out to a trichotillomania support group where you can speak to others suffering from the same affliction. It can be surprising just how much better you feel when you openly talk with people who know exactly what you are going through. That level of support can bring back your feelings of hope and happiness.
If you think you may be suffering from trichotillomania, also consider talking to your OB/GYN. At All About Women, we are happy to discuss your concerns with you, as well as provide the best options going forward.