Trichotillomania 

Introduction 

Trichotillomania is an overwhelming urge to pull your hair out 

How common is trichotillomania?

Impulse-control disorders are common among teenagers and young adults.

Trichotillomania often starts at around 11-13 years of age, and may affect up to four in 100 people. It is more common in girls.

Teen girls 15-18

Read about teen girl health issues, including healthy eating, skin problems and having sex for the first time

Trichotillomania is a condition where a person feels compelled to pull their hair out.

They may pull out the hair on their head or in other places, such as their eyebrows or eyelashes.

Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder (a psychological condition where you are unable to stop yourself carrying out a particular action).

You will experience an intense urge to pull your hair out and growing tension until you do. After pulling out your hair, you will feel a sense of relief. Pulling out hair on the head leaves bald patches.

Trichotillomania can cause negative feelings, such as guilt. You may also feel embarrassed or ashamed about pulling your hair out, and may try to deny it or cover it up. Sometimes, trichotillomania can make you feel unattractive and can lead to low self-esteem.

Read more about the symptoms of trichotillomania.

What causes trichotillomania?

It is not known what causes trichotillomania, but there are several theories.

Some experts think hair pulling is a type of addiction. The more you pull your hair out, the more you want to keep doing it.

Trichotillomania may be a reflection of a mental health problem. Psychological and behavioural theories suggest that hair pulling may be a way of relieving stress or anxiety.

In some cases, trichotillomania may be a form of self-harm, where you deliberately injure yourself as a way of seeking temporary relief from emotional distress.

Read more about the causes of trichotillomania.

Seeing your GP

Visit your GP if you are pulling your hair out or if you notice that your child is.

Your GP may examine areas where the hair is missing to check nothing else is causing the hair to come out, such as a skin infection. In trichotillomania, bald patches are an unusual shape and may affect one side more than the other.

Read more about how trichotillomania is diagnosed.

Treating trichotillomania

Little medical research has been conducted into different treatments for trichotillomania.

The most effective treatment is therapy to change your hair-pulling behaviour, combined with a network of emotional support.

Psychotherapy is a type of talking therapy that can be used to treat emotional problems and mental health conditions. It involves discussing emotional issues with a trained therapist.

In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that may be recommended. It helps you manage your problems by changing how you think and act.

CBT often involves behavioural therapy, also known as habit-reversal therapy, which aims to help you change the way you behave  for example, reducing your hair-pulling behaviour.

Read more about treating trichotillomania.

Complications

Trichotillomania can have a significant impact on your quality of life, and can also cause medical problems.

Trichotillomania can often cause feelings of guilt, shame, isolation or embarrassment, which can affect your social life and have an impact on your performance at school or work.

Read more about complications of trichotillomania.

Support

If you have trichotillomania, it is important you receive emotional help and support. This can be from family, friends or self-help groups.

Organisations, such as Trichotillomania Support, are good places to start if you are looking for support.

Page last reviewed: 30/08/2012

Next review due: 30/08/2014

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Comments

The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

CheB87 said on 20 August 2014

I have been pulling out my hair for I think over 15 years. First it started with my lashes and then on the top of my head. Yes it is extremely embarrassing and I get no support from family or friends. They would just scold me. On my wedding day I had not one eye lash.
This is the worst thing ever! I can not control it! It is so good to know that there is other people out there with the same hurt. Well it is not good that you are hurting. It is just good to know, I am not the only person with hair on the couch, in the car, in the bed and being bold. . . .

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dreamweave said on 08 March 2014

I suffered from trichotillomania as a kid around 7/8. I suffered major traumas as a kid and I believe that was the cause. Although in now 26 I still pull out my hair, nowhere near as much but I have noticed I constantly twirl my hair and plait it extremely tight, on the odd occasion I'll pull several strands from the roots, twiddle with them, discard and start again. The twirling is driving me nuts, it's embarrassing because I do it where ever I go!
I've heard that hair pulling can be a form of self harm giving temporary relief and I seen to be using it in the same respect but it doesn't relieve anything just makes my arms and forehead ache and and gets me frustrated.
I hope I'll be able to work on this when I start working on a borderline personality disorder treatment. At least I know it's an actual issue, my boyfriends just thinks I'm addicted to playing with my long silky hair! Lol! It may feel nice but it sure gets on my nerves and makes me feel like I'm just a complete nutter!

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klfstates said on 20 February 2014

Trichotillomania was re classified last year as a BFRB or Body Focused Repetitive Behaviour , what's a shame is that so few medical professionals seem to have much knowledge about it and frequently it's the patient that is armed with more information than the care giver. Having had it for 30 years I can say that yes CBT works but funding rarely goes beyond 6/8 sessions which is rarely enough and there is virtually no support for funding hair systems or wigs , which for a woman give back a quality of life and help considerably with self esteem and confidence issues.
There is a huge online support community via closed groups on networking sites such as facebook where suffers can discuss the issues and personal experiences of Trich with others who fully understand the condition.

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BlimeyGirl33 said on 01 February 2014

I've suffered since I was 11 years old. I went from waist length hair to an awful bob/crop in about one year. I wasn't taken to my GP (my parents had no idea this condition existed, and were of the "pull yourself together brigade, pun not intended!)
Just a quick question for any fellow sufferers, my particular way of pulling is to get a couple of strands and roll them up between my thumb and forefinger, till I reach my scalp and pull it out. I also rip and roll the corners of pages in my books, some well read ones are quite shredded! Does anybody else do this? I've looked on many TTM sites but found no information. Any info would be appreciated

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squash1 said on 22 September 2013

never knew there were others out there. I like the pain it causes but not like what I am doing. is that normal? I use my fingers and tweezers. cant believe how much pull out at night. scary. mentioned to hair dresser he looked bemused.
is the pain thing normal? want to stop as I have very fine hair.

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chickadee873 said on 01 May 2013

I am looking for advice from another parent as my child has been pulling her hair out for one and a half years. She is only three any tips to help stop this would be much appreciated as the health professionals I have spoken to about this were uninterested and offered no support.

Thanks

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