Trichotillomania is characterized by the compulsive urge to pull out hair from one’s own body. It occurs due to extreme cases of stress and anxiety. People suffering from trichotillomania may pull out hair from scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, arms, and legs. Individuals with trichotillomania may be aware of their actions, yet they have difficult controlling the impulse to pull out hair. If it persists, this impulse disorder can eventually lead to serious hair loss and, eventually, baldness. It is like other impulse disorders like Kleptomania (urge to steal) and Pyromania (urge to start fire) and these all are mainly attributed to anxiety and stressful life.
Trichotillomania can occur to anybody irrespective of age and sex. Young children between the age of 9 and 13 are more likely to experience the onset of this disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Trichotillomania
- Pulling scalp hair in a trance-like state
- Unbearable urge to itch the scalp
- Using sharp instruments to pluck out hair
- Feeling a total loss of self-control
- Extreme anxiety, especially before hair is pulled out
- Pulling out hair even in unconscious state
- Feeling relief after hair is pulled out
Causes and Risk Factors
While the exact causes for trichotillomania are unknown, it tends to occur during high levels of anxiety and stress. Additionally, if a person has suffered any kind of traumatic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder in life, or if there is a family history present, he/she is more likely to have trichotillomania. The chief cause for this hair pulling disorder is trauma and stress. The likelihood of an attack increases after a nerve-racking incidence.
The act of hair pulling, as well as giving in to the compulsion, relieves stress and tension temporarily, which is why people with trichotillomania associate it with a feeling of relief. However, people do not realize that the long-term risks can be detrimental to daily functioning and overall health. The bigger risks of Trichotillomania can be enhanced under the following situations:
- Continuous untreated anxiety
- Denial and covering up the hair loss
- Ongoing feelings of stress
- Permanent damage to skin and hair
- Extreme depression
- Genital allergies
- Thoughts of suicide
- Increased risk of cancer
Treatment for trichotillomania depends upon the individual. If this disorder is found in growing children, it is much easier to control and cure. If the same disorder is found in adults, it is generally coupled with other psychological disorders.
Self-intervention, stress management, and counseling are the best ways to treat trichotillomania. Also, it is important to spread awareness of the dangers of trichotillomania so that people do not mistake this disorder for a healthy way to relieve stress.