Diagnosing trichotillomania 

Visit your GP if you're pulling your hair out, or if you notice that your child is.

Your GP may ask about:

  • your symptoms
  • feelings you have before and after pulling your hair out
  • whether you've noticed anything that triggers your hair pulling

Your GP may also examine the areas where you've pulled your hair out. They'll need to check nothing else is causing your hair to come out, such as a skin infection.

In trichotillomania, the bald patches are an unusual shape and may affect one side more than the other.

Classifying trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is defined as a type of mental and behavioural disorder by both the International Classification of Diseases system and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classification system.

Your GP may use some of the criteria below to diagnose your condition:

  • You repeatedly pull your hair out, causing noticeable hair loss.
  • You feel increasing tension before you pull your hair out.
  • You feel relief or pleasure when you've pulled your hair out.
  • There's no underlying medical condition causing you to pull your hair out, such as a skin condition.    
  • Pulling your hair out causes you distress or affects your everyday life – for example, your relationships or work.

A person may sometimes be diagnosed with trichotillomania even if they don't meet all of the above criteria.

Page last reviewed: 19/11/2014

Next review due: 19/11/2017