Trichotillomania, colloquially known as ‘hair-pulling disorder’ is a psychological impulse control problem where an individual has a deep urge to pull out one’s hair leading to severe hair loss. Pulling of hair may occur at any part of the body but mostly takes place at the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. Several attempts to stop pulling out the hair usually fails to cause bald spots on the scalp, leading to depression and distress which can ultimately intervene one’s normal life and environment.

This disorder may be genetic or inherited from a family member and are commonly visualized in people already suffering from anxiety attacks or obsessive compulsive disorder or it may be a severe side effect of a traumatic incident. People suffering from this disorder may even have an urge to pull out hair from animals or dolls or certain materials like a blanket.

Symptoms

Trichotillomania

  • Consistently pulling out hair from scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows.
  • Chewing, biting or eating the pulled hair.
  • Feeling happy and satisfied for a brief period after pulling out the hair.
  • Feeling highly tensed and anxious before pulling out the hair.
  • Bare patches are noticed at the affected part.
  • Playing with the pulled-out hair or rubbing it across the face or lips.
  • Chewing nails or lips, picking at the skin.
  • Attempting to hide the bald patch by wearing hats, wig or false eyelashes.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Trichotillomania is generally diagnosed by a doctor or medical practitioner by examining the amount and type of hair loss and evaluating the psychological or physical factors that might lead to the hair-pulling.

In many cases, minor symptoms have been reported to disappear on its own but severe or acute conditions require prescribed medications and periodic behavioural therapies.

Therapies include:

Cognitive Therapy:

Helps to recognize and analyse the distorted thoughts you may have that causes hair pulling.

Habit Reversal Training:

A kind of treatment where your doctor recognizes the situations which may cause hair-pulling and substitute it with some other behaviour.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:

A type of psychological intervention where the doctor counsels the patient to accept the disorder, he is suffering from so that the individual inhibits himself from acting on the urge.

Hypnosis:

A trance-like state to alter the defective behaviour and make one susceptible to better suggestions.

There is no particular medication for this disorder, but your doctor may prescribe for some anti-depressants, neurotransmitters or antipsychotics to alleviate depression and anxiety in order to subdue the periodic urges of hair-pulling.

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