Trichotillomania is a condition where a person feels compelled to pull their hair out.
Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder (a psychological condition where you are unable to stop yourself carrying out a particular action). Its causes are not entirely understood, however it is estimated that up to 4% of the population is affected, with women four times more likely to be affected than men.
Patients experience an intense urge to pull their hair out and growing tension until they do. Sufferers often feel a sense of relief after pulling the hair out, however their actions leaves bald patches.
Tricholotillomania is not always obvious and is sometimes hidden. As a result it can be particularly difficult to diagnose, especially in children. It can also resemble many other conditions, particularly when the patient denies their actions.
Approximately 70% of cases of Trichotillomania involve scalp hair loss, 50% involve eyebrows or eyelashes, 30% include pubic hair, 20% body hair and about 10% involve facial hair.
As well as plucking the hair, individuals with Trichotillomania may then chew or eat the hair. Hair eating is known as Trichophagia. About 40% of cases involve hair chewing while 10% of individuals with Trichotillomania eat their hair. Eating hair is unwise as it is very irritating to the stomach and can lead to digestion problems including ulcers and obstructions.
Many individuals who suffer from Trichotillomania are often unaware of what they are doing and do not realise the reason for their hair loss. When they do realise, it often causes negative feelings, such as guilt. Patients feel embarrassed or ashamed about pulling their hair out, and may try to deny it or cover it up. Sometimes, trichotillomania can make them feel unattractive and can lead to very low self-esteem. Many patients feel unable to talk about the condition and as a result feel alone and isolated.
We often find that when patients do pluck up the courage to seek treatment, simply talking about the condition with a professional is enough to help control their urges. We often refer on to psychotherapists where the patient can receive professional emotional support.
If you suffer with this condition don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Alternatively there is a Support group in the UK for sufferers:
Trichotillomania Support UK – http://www.trichotillomania.co.uk/Regions/Brits.htm