What Trichotillomania Is & Why Some Women Struggle With It

Common causes, symptoms and treatments of trichotillomania

Trichotillomania, also known as compulsive hair-pulling or hair-pulling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to pull your own hair. The disorder can occur both consciously and unconsciously. It can be triggered by stress, boredom, anxiety and various other circumstances. In fact, some women who suffer from this disorder can engage in the practice without even fully realizing they’re doing so.

Those who deal with this disorder have reported feeling embarrassed and ashamed. These feelings then lead to isolation as those suffering from trichotillomania often avoid social situations. The good news is that trichotillomania is not as uncommon as you may think, and there are treatment options out there that may work for you.

The first step is reaching out to a trusted doctor to discuss your condition and options.

Signs and symptoms of trichotillomania

The main symptom of trichotillomania is pulling your own hair. The act of pulling one’s hair can occur on any part of your body that hair grows on, such as the head and eyebrows. While these 2 locations are the most common areas, they aren’t the only ones where it can occur. The face and pubic area can also experience the effects of trichotillomania.

Symptoms of the trichotillomania disorder include:

  • Rubbing the pulled hair across your skin or face

  • Feeling relieved after you have pulled the hair

  • Hair loss

  • Chewing on or eating the pulled hair
  • Suffering from other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety or OCD

  • Feeling tension before pulling your hair

  • Experiencing distress in social situations due to your hair pulling

Who is at risk for trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania can occur at any time, but generally appears between 10 and 13 years of age and can last a lifetime. According to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, 1 in 50 people experiences trichotillomania at some point in their life.

While the number of people that this condition affects in late childhood or early puberty is roughly the same, women are 80 to 90 percent more likely to experience this disorder in their adult years. Studies have also shown that hormonal changes that naturally occur during the menstrual cycle can trigger flare-ups of trichotillomania.

Common causes of trichotillomania

The actual cause of trichotillomania is unclear, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, trichotillomania is considered a complex mental disorder and may be caused by both environmental and genetic factors. People who suffer from this illness may also feel the urge to bite their nails, pick at their skin and chew on their lips.

Treatments for trichotillomania

Trichotillomania treatments can be more complex as it takes time and practice to learn the triggers of this disorder and find other coping mechanisms.

While there is no cure for trichotillomania, there are a wide array of options that you can use to manage your desire to pull your hair. It’s common to try several different strategies before finding the treatment that works for you.

Some common treatment options include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is often used in conjunction with other treatment options. This type of treatment focuses on adjusting the way you control your feelings.

  • Therapy. Therapy is another option for controlling hair pulling disorders. This can be individual, family or group therapy. No matter which type of therapy you choose, talking out your issues with a reputable therapist can go a long way in helping you control your hair-pulling urges.
  • Self-help techniques. Self-help techniques include deep breathing, saying a mantra and trying relaxation methods such as meditation to help reduce the stress and anxiety that leads to hair pulling.

  • Medication. Medication is typically the last resort for treating trichotillomania since there are currently no medications available to specifically treat this disorder. Some doctors will prescribe serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to help treat the anxiety that typically goes hand in hand with trichotillomania.

Stopping the habit is usually the first step when treating trichotillomania. You can start by focusing on learning your triggers (such as stress, boredom or anxiety) that lead to the hair-pulling and then substituting the pulling behavior for something else.

For example, some sufferers find that when they feel the urge to pull their hair, they focus that urge on another activity, such as snapping a rubber band around their wrist or squeezing a stress ball. Keeping track of your hair-pulling episodes and writing them down in a journal is also a great way to figure out what triggers you.

Are you suffering from trichotillomania?

Consider reaching out to a trichotillomania support group where you can speak to others suffering from the same affliction. It can be surprising just how much better you feel when you openly talk with people who know exactly what you are going through. That level of support can bring back your feelings of hope and happiness.

If you think you may be suffering from trichotillomania, also consider talking to your OB/GYN. At All About Women, we are happy to discuss your concerns with you, as well as provide the best options going forward.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our trusted and caring doctors in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida.