Trichotillomania is a condition that causes compulsive hair pulling. People with trichotillomania often pull their hair so often that it leads to hair loss. The hair pulling may happen consciously or unconsciously.
Researchers haven’t settled on a universal treatment for trichotillomania. Most treatments, however, focus on managing it as a psychological condition similar to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
Hair pulling and hair loss are the most apparent symptoms of trichotillomania. A closer look at the condition, however, shows a more detailed definition that includes symptoms like:
Feeling stress or anxiety about hair pulling.
Feeling relieved during or after pulling hair.
Pulling hair unconsciously, often without knowing that you’re doing it at all.
Continued hair pulling even when you try to stop.
An ongoing need to pull hair.
Obsessive behaviors related to pulling hair, such as twisting hairs or counting hairs.
Eating hair after pulling it out (a condition called “trichophagy”).
Although trichotillomania does not have direct health consequences, it can cause a lot of distress and embarrassment in people living with the condition. Depending on how distressed people feel, they may adopt unhealthy habits to cope with trichotillomania. For example, some people may refuse to leave their homes when they have bald spots, which can lead to social isolation and job loss.
Seeking Help for Hair Pulling Disorder
The most recent surveys show that trichotillomania affects 0.5% to 2.0% of the population. That means that between 1.64 million and 6.56 million people in the United States live with the hair-pulling disorder.
People affected by trichotillomania may have experienced childhood traumas or have genetic traits that make them more susceptible to the condition. Periods of high stress or anxiety can worsen the symptoms of trichotillomania in some people.
Since trichotillomania is the result of a mental health condition, people living with it should seek help from mental health professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists. The most successful treatment strategies usually include several approaches. Counselors may recommend medications as well as behavioral techniques that reduce anxiety and give patients more control over their actions.
Although there isn’t a universal treatment option, most people find that they can manage their symptoms once they learn coping and stress-reduction strategies from mental health counselors.
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