It is common for people to fear losing their hair with the advancement of age, but there are people who induce hair loss themselves as a result of an impulse control disorder called Trichotillomania. Typified as a compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair, Trichotillomania can lead to noticeable hair loss, distress, and social or functional impairment in both adolescents and adults. Individuals who suffer from this type of disorder most often derive pleasure from pulling out their hair because it makes them feel in control and content; however, this type of impulsive behavior can cause severe problems in the future if it is not treated properly.

Quick Facts:

  • Trichotillomania affects up to 4% of the population.
  • Women are four times a likely to develop Trichotillomania as men.
  • People often start compulsive hair-pulling around the ages of 12-13; although it is not uncommon for it to start at a much younger or older age.
  • A stressful event can be associated with the onset of Trichotillomania such as change of schools, abuse, family conflict, or the death of a parent.

Causes of Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania was not acknowledged as a disorder until the late twentieth century; as a result, not a lot of research has been conducted on trichotillomania and its causes remain unknown to this day. Some evidence suggests that it is a genetic disorder. This theory is supported by the fact that people whose relatives have trichotillomania are more likely to develop it as well points to this cause for the disorder. Another theory suggests that there is some disruption in the system involving one of the chemical messengers between the nerve cells in parts of the brain. Further studies are being conducted at universities around the world, but no specific cause has been pinpointed as of yet.

Treatment for Trichotillomania

There are two approaches to the treatment of Trichotillomania: therapy and medicine. Therapy can help find the things that trigger hair-pulling in a specific individual, and habit reversal training can help people suffering from Trichotillomania lessen their urge to pull at their hair. Hypnosis has also been effective in some cases by helping to stop hair-pulling, but it is not effective for everybody suffering from Trichotillomania. Medications such as Prozac, Anafranil and other selective reuptake inhibitors have also been proven to be effective in some case studies of Trichotillomania. Another common treatment option is prescribing a combination of medications and psychological therapy for person suffering from Trichotillomania. Judging from the research done up to this point, behavioral therapy appears to be the most effective treatment for Trichotillomania. However, the effects that various treatments have upon those struggling with trichotillomania vary, so it is best for patients to consult their doctors and decide on treatment plans with the help of medical professionals.


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