Trichotillomania: The Causes and Symptoms Hair-Pulling


trichotillomaniaPlaying with one’s hair is a common habit exhibited by many people whether young or old. Some twirl a small lock around their finger or push their hair behind their ears out of mere habit. In most cases, this behavior is no cause for concern. In other cases, hair-pulling can actually lead to hair loss and balding. In fact, not only do some people repeatedly pull the hairs on their head, some pull their eyelash and eyebrow hairs. The harmful form of hair pulling is an obsessive-compulsive disorder called trichotillomania. Below, we discuss all the symptoms and causes of trichotillomania, as well as those who are often affected by it and what they can do to treat it.

What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania (trick-o-till-o-may-nee-uh) is one of many body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). It’s categorized as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). BFRBs involve picking at skin, nails or hair to the point that it damages the body. Although it’s common for people to occasionally pull on their hair when bored or nervous, those with Trichotillomania have the insatiable desire to pull their hair repeatedly. When left untreated, Trichotillomania can lead to thinning hair and unsightly bald patches on the head, eyelashes, eyebrows and other parts of the body. Researchers have found that 0.5 to 2 percent of adults have Trichotillomania, and 5 to 20 percent of people with Trichotillomania also swallow their hair.

What are the Symptoms of Trichotillomania?

While many people pull their hair, a small percentage of those people have it to an obsessive-compulsive degree. When repetitive behaviors affect one’s ability to function at home, work, school and other places, then that behavior is considered to be a disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Trichotillomania symptoms involve:


  • Hair pulling that leads to hair loss
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop the hair-pulling behavior
  • The clinical inability to function in social, occupational or other areas
  • Behavior not caused by drugs or skin conditions
  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior not explained by other psychiatric disorders

What Causes Trichotillomania?

Rather than a learned behavior, researchers believe that Trichotillomania is caused by a chemical or hormonal imbalance. It is also known to be genetic and run in families as Trichotillomania can be found in children as young as 12 months of age. In addition, four times as many women than men are affected by hair pulling. The uncontrollable urge to continuously pull one’s hair is typically brought on by anxiety or stress. The act of pulling on the hair provides a sense of tension relief to those affected by Trichotillomania. Most aren’t even aware that they are pulling their hair. Repeated hair pulling can lead to embarrassing bald patches, which could contribute to social anxiety disorder.

How is Trichotillomania Treated?

Because Trichotillomania is considered to be a mental disorder, there is no cure. However, many people who have the habit of hair pulling can find help through professionals with experience in treating Trichotillomania. The first step in overcoming hair pulling comes with self-awareness. Once one is aware of their habitual behavior, then the right combination of habit reversal therapy, along with medication and education, can work wonders for many. In addition, patients can prevent social anxiety by treating their hair loss covering up.

Hair pulling is a common behavior that everyone has done from time to time. When repeated hair pulling on the scalp, eyes and other body parts leads to patchy hair or bald spots, then one is said to be afflicted with the obsessive-compulsive disorder called Trichotillomania. While there is no cure, many people find habit reversal training and other approaches to be helpful. Also, there are many ways to cover up hair loss and balding using natural hair replacement solutions.

Studies show that patients with positive outlooks and attitudes respond better to treatment. At Custom Hair Tampa Bay, we carry beautiful, natural-looking wigs which can remove one of the challenges you’re facing as you battle illness. To schedule a free consultation at one of our three locations click here.