Trichotillomania: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


A small percentage of Americans has frequent, uncontrollable urges to pull their hair out. This is a kind of mental disorder called trichotillomania. The condition leads to noticeable hair loss and distress. The condition affects people young and old. It plagues a bit over 1% of the population. The numbers may be skewed since many individuals who deal with this disease suffer in silence. This discomfort is due to embarrassment and shame. They sometimes feel they can handle the problem themselves when their life is more manageable.  

Suspected Causes

The exact cause of trichotillomania is a mystery, but research suggests that it could be a combination of factors, such as genetics, environment, and psychology. Studies show that people with trichotillomania may have brain chemistry and structure changes that affect impulse control and emotional regulation. This disorder may be exacerbated by anxiousness, stress, and other emotional or psychological triggers.

Trichotillomania Symptoms

Some of the most concerning symptoms of this mental condition include hair pulling, bald patches, overall hair loss, and feelings of desolation. Feelings of shame and mortification often afflict individuals with trichotillomania. They may be quite secretive in trying to hide their hair loss and spend a great deal of time in denial. This tactic worsens the symptoms because the individual is frequently anxious about keeping the disease hidden.

What Helps People Living With Trichotillomania?

Seeking therapy from a professional psychologist, using prescription medication, and self-help skills are often quite effective in treating trichotillomania.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used therapy for trichotillomania. It aims to help individuals identify and change their negative thought patterns and behaviors. CBT also teaches coping mechanisms to help people recognize when they are most likely to pull their hair and provides them with ways to control the urges.  

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may also be used to help manage symptoms of trichotillomania. SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. This medication often helps lessen the impulses and out-of-control feelings that lead to hair pulling.

Learning self-help coping skills is useful in managing trichotillomania. Examples include keeping a diary to track triggers and urges and being mindful about lessening the stress in their lives. Deep breathing, prayer, and meditation are some examples of self-help skills that can be valuable. It’s also helpful to find alternative behaviors to engage in when the urge to pull hair arises, such as squeezing a stress ball or practicing mindfulness.

It's important to remember that, while trichotillomania is treatable, recovery is a continuous process. It’s not uncommon to have relapses. Seeking professional help can provide the individual with a wealth of coping strategies.

Research suggests that this mental health disorder may be the result of a few factors. With the help of a mental health professional, individuals with trichotillomania can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. If you’re struggling with trich, contact New U today for a free consultation by clicking here.

Photo Credit: NickyPe Via Pixabay

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