Thinning hair and baldness are so common that you probably know several people whose locks are less than luxurious. Males and females of all ages experience hair loss for myriad reasons including genetic predisposition, side effects of chemotherapy medications to treat cancer, inadequate nutrition, damage from chemical over-processing, etc. You may be surprised to learn that mental illness or trichotillomania can also, indirectly, cause hair loss.
Trichotillomania: More Common Than You May Realize
Trichotillomania (also sometimes called Trich or TTM) is the compulsive urge to pull out one’s hair, strand by strand, from the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, or genital area. While you may have never before heard of this condition, as many as 280 million people suffer from it on any given day.
People who have trichotillomania consciously and/or subconsciously pull out their hair, sometimes even while they’re sleeping. Some people play with, chew on, or even eat their plucked hairs. Trichotillomania can begin at any age, and many sufferers experience periods of relapse and then recurrence. Many compulsive hair pullers are also compulsive skin pickers who are drawn to repetitive, body-focused behaviors.
Why do Some People Habitually Pull Their Hair Out?
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I’m so upset I could tear my hair out!” Trichotillomania could very well be the origin of this phrase. For many sufferers, hair pulling is a way to deal with stress, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s believed to be related to another body-focused stress For others, trichotillomania is a form of self-harm. Some sufferers report that they enjoy the sensory experience of the moment a hair leaves the follicle. Other report a surge of relief or release when they pull.
What Can Sufferers do to Stop or Mask the Effects of the Disorder?
Many trichotillomania sufferers develop bald patches on their scalps; some may pluck out all of their eyebrows or eyelashes. Not only is the disorder often a source of shame and embarrassment that can lead to social isolation, it can cause skin rashes and infections, and can damage hair follicles to the extent that they’re unable to produce more hair.
Fortunately, help is available! Prescription medications used to treat anxiety and depression are often helpful in treating trichotillomania. Cognitive behavioral therapy (in which a therapist helps a sufferer change their thought patterns and physical responses to stress) is another treatment that’s often very effective.
People who are suffering from active trichotillomania or those in recovery who are waiting for their hair to grow back usually find wigs, hats, and scarves essential accessories that make them feel more confident around others. At Custom Hair Tampa Bay, we use high-quality medical wigs, which can alleviate the added stress of trich sufferers worrying about their appearance due to hair loss. To schedule a free consultation at one of our three locations click here.
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