What Is Trichotillomania?

The chances are, you have a nervous habit or two.  Maybe you bite your lips, or perhaps you rattle your leg around when you’re anxious.  But, for some people, repetitive nervous behavior actually is a disorder.  In fact, there is a whole category of disorders, called Bodily Focused Repetitive Behavior disorders, or BFRBs for short.  These can include things like onychophagia –biting one’s own nails – or dermatillomania, which is picking one’s own skin.  But, few of the BFRBs can have results as noticeable and heartbreaking as trichotillomania.  As much as 4 percent of the population may suffer from this condition.  But, what exactly is trichotillomania, and what can you do if you have it?

Simply put, trichotillomania is the compulsion to rip out one’s own hair.  This, just as any BFRB, is an impulse control disorder, somewhat like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  For most people who suffer from this condition, the hair pulling is so extreme that there is noticeable hair loss.  And, for others, it’s so bad that the person goes bald or even shaves their head as a last resort.  While there are some ways to eventually overcome the disorder, trichotillomania, or “Trich” as those who suffer from it often call it, is not an easy thing to fight.  So, who exactly suffers from this disorder, and what can they do?

Who Suffers From Trichotillomania?

Much like most Bodily Focused Repetitive Behavior disorders, trichotillomania doesn’t really pick and choose its victims.  Anybody can get trichotillomania.  However, the condition usually manifests itself when the person is in their formative teenage years, particularly under age 17.  And, the people who suffer from Trich tend to be women more often than men.  As an impulse control disorder, it may have some connections with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  And, those who have trichotillomania may also struggle with other obsessive disorders, like dermatillomania.  However, there doesn’t seem to be a set cause for Trich.

What Makes People With Trichotillomania Pull Out Their Own Hair?

Trich, much like some other BFRBs, is often a response to stress or anxiety.  Just like those with dermatillomania may pick their skin when they’re feeling particularly nervous, people with trichotillomania may resort to hair pulling to self-soothe during times of stress.  However, the condition may also affect those who have a perfectionist complex.  For example, trichotillomania doesn’t necessarily mean that you pull out hair on your head.  Others may use tweezers or needles to extract hair on legs and other parts of the body in an attempt to remove any imperfections.  Of course, any form of trichotillomania can be damaging, but this instrument-assisted form can be particularly dangerous.

What Do You Do If You Have Trichotillomania?

If you find yourself absent-mindedly yanking out hair, you’re not alone.  And, there are some options out there for you to get better.  Special trichotillomania “toys” have helped some, and with the immense popularity of fidget spinners, playing with these hand-occupying toys is now more socially acceptable than ever.  However, if toys are not enough to keep your hands away from your hair, you may want to consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  No matter what option you try, you should always seek help and diagnosis.  If you think you may have a BFRB, you should definitely talk to your doctor about possible solutions.

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