What is Trichotilomania?

The Anguish Of It

It’s tense, stressful. You’re feeling panicked, all too aware that you’re sitting on your hands to prevent further pulling. You shift side to side in your seat nervously, whilst resisting moving your palms away. You try distracting yourself, and try to think about something else, anything else. Eventually, you can’t take it any longer, your hand flies to your eyebrows, and you start yanking the tiny hairs from their roots with pleasure. You let that breathe go and feel a sense of relief.

What Is Trichotilomania?

This is the reality for many people with Trichotilomania. The mental disorder may be under the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. This condition is characterized by the inability to resist the urge to pull out our own hair. It is commonly done in response to stressful situations but does not need a trigger at all. Hair can be pulled from the eyebrows, lashes, face, genital area and most commonly the scalp. It has been found to be more common in females, teenagers and young adults.

Why Does It Happen?

Psychologists are unsure as to what exactly causes trichotillomania, but some theories have suggested it is a way of dealing with stress or anxiety. Chemically, it has been found to have a similar imbalance as seen in people with obsessive compulsive disorder, which seems logical given the compulsive nature of the condition. It could also be due to changes in hormone levels during puberty or a type of self-harm. It can become addictive for some people.

How To Stop It

There are things we can try ourselves to help when feeling the urge to pull hair such as squeezing a stress ball, practising deep breathing or using a fidget toy. Distraction and relaxation techniques may work. A type of CBT is also used called habit reversal training which is commonly used to treat it. Even speaking out about it can help reduce the anxiety surrounding it and the hair pulling itself.

For more information, please visit the NHS page on trichotillomania.

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