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What is Trichotillomania? - A Hair Pulling Disorder Mystery

What is Trichotillomania? 

Trichotillomania (trick-o-til-o-MAY-nee-ah) is a hair pulling disorder.  They may pull from areas all over the body, to include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic area, underarms, chest, legs or beard area.  Some people who suffer from hair pulling just pull from one area, such as their scalp or eyelashes, while others pull hair from all areas of the body.  The hair pulling results in noticeable bald patches, often causing tremendous anxiety and stress when baldness is located in an area that cannot be hidden from public view, such as the scalp, eyelashes or eyebrow area.  The baldness and concern over how others will view the loss of hair oftentimes affects the person's self-esteem, causing them to withdrawal from activities they would normally participate in, such as sports, social outings, swimming, etc. 

Hair pulling severity varies and changes often for some hair pullers.  In many cases, during certain times, trichotillomania is mild, even completely dormant, and the urges to pull hair disappear completely, or can be fought off with additional awareness, concentration and deep breathing.  However, for that same person, at another time, the urge to pull hair may be so strong that it is impossible not to pull out the hair(s) from a particular place on the body.

Trichotillomania is currently defined as an impulse control disorder; however, there are still many unanswered questions regarding treatment and classification.

Trichotillomania may be considered by some people an addiction, a tic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Most recently, it is being conceptualized as part of a family of "body-focused repetitive behaviors".  Skin picking and nail biting also fall into this classification. You can learn more about Trichotillomania at www.bfrb.org.

To date, there is no known medical cure for Trichotillomania; however there are many people who have become pull free (PF) and continue to remain PF.  One approach does not necessarily work for every person suffering from Trichotillomania. Current possible Trichotillomania treatment(s) include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, support groups and alternative treatments, such as a diet rich in whole foods, yoga, herbal supplements (please see my post on Trichotillomania Treatment to see what supplements have worked for me) and prayer.

It is recommended that you consult your physician to formulate a treatment plan that you are comfortable with and one in which you both can monitor your progress and make necessary changes along the way.