Introduction 

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 the person is unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action.

They will experience an intense urge to pull their hair out and growing tension until they do. After pulling out hair, they'll feel a sense of relief. Pulling out hair on the head leaves bald patches.

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

Impulse-control disorders are more common among teenagers and young adults. Trichotillomania tends to affect girls more than boys.

Read more about the symptoms of trichotillomania.

What causes trichotillomania?

It's 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 the person deliberately injures themselves as a way of seeking temporary relief from emotional distress.

Read more about the causes of trichotillomania.

Seeing your GP

See your GP if you're 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 treatments for trichotillomania.

The most effective treatment is therapy to change the 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, by reducing your hair-pulling behaviour.

Read more about treating trichotillomania.

Complications of trichotillomania

Trichotillomania can have a significant impact on the person's quality of life, and can also cause medical problems.

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

Read more about the complications of trichotillomania.

Support

If you have trichotillomania, it's 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're looking for support.

Trichotillomania is an overwhelming urge to pull your hair out 

Teen girls 15-18

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

Page last reviewed: 19/11/2014

Next review due: 19/11/2016