This is a guest post by Ariel Taylor from TrichStop.com, which I have actually recommended clients use in the past. In full disclosure, I have received no incentives for publishing this, and did so because I believe it’s useful to have more information about this problematic condition (in addition to our past posts on this topic).
To date, between 0.5 and 3 percent of the population suffers from trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is a mental health disorder that is not commonly heard or understood by most people, but it is just as serious and detrimental to an affected person’s quality of life as any other mental health disorder.
It is important to spread awareness about trichotillomania because people who suffer from trichotillomania struggle with self-guilt and shame about having the disorder. Promotion of awareness and understanding about the disorder will help encourage people who suffer from trichotillomania to seek help for recovery.
In this article, you will find the 6 major facts that people do not know about trichotillomania, its cause, and what it is like for an affected person to live with the disorder.
- Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder that is also known as compulsive hair pulling disorder.
It is a disorder in which a person suffers from the irresistible urge to pull out his or her own body hair. The targeted areas are typically the head, face, eyebrows or eyelashes, but could also be on any part of the body. The hair pulling behavior is often triggered by anxiety or emotional upset, and can cause a person to inflict physical harm, like bleeding, scabbing, scarring, and (sometimes permanent) hair loss, onto himself or herself.
Trichotillomania is considered an impulse control disorder. An impulse control disorder is a disorder in which a person struggles to manage, resist, or maintain willpower to refrain from impulsive and destructive behaviors. These impulsive behaviors are damaging and cause significant distress on a person’s mental health, and sometimes, physical health.
Some other examples of impulse control disorders include:
- Substance abuse
- Gambling addiction
- Intermittent explosive disorder.
- The urge to pull out hair is irresistible.
People with trichotillomania have an exceptionally hard time resisting the urge to pull out their own hair. Especially in times of high stress, the impulse and temptation to pull one’s own hair out is so strong that most people cave to the craving. This is because the person who suffers from trichotillomania only knows how to feel relief from the stress and anxiety that he or she is feeling by feeling the sensation of pulling out his or her own hair. The sensation and action of pulling hair out is cathartic for an affected person, and prevents that person from learning healthy coping strategies.
Recovery from trichotillomania cannot be successful without professional intervention. A person with trichotillomania will likely need to seek therapy in order to learn ways to resist and prevent the hair pulling behavior. For most people with trichotillomania, this is the only way to learn how to resist the temptation to pull their hair out.
- Some people with trichotillomania will pull their hair out without even realizing it.
The hair pulling behavior that comes with suffering from trichotillomania is a behavior that is deeply engrained in the affected person. When a person suffers from trichotillomania, he or she is constantly confronted with the urge, desire, temptation or impulse to pull out his or her own hair.
In more severe and chronic cases of trichotillomania, a person with the disorder could spend time pulling out his or her hair without even realizing it. Some examples of when this behavior may manifest in a person include, but is not limited to:
- While watching TV or reading
- While at work or class
- While commuting
- While deep in thought
- While surfing the internet
- While socializing with others
- People with trichotillomania pull out their own hair to relieve stress and anxiety.
The primary trigger for the hair pulling behavior that comes with suffering from trichotillomania is anxiety. This means that when a person with trichotillomania feels anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or afraid, he or she will engage in the hair pulling behavior in an effort to relieve stress. The sensation of pulling hair out of one’s own scalp, face, eyebrows or eyelashes, gives a person with trichotillomania a temporary sense of relief from the stress and anxiety he or she feels.
It is important to note, that even though the act of pulling out hair does create a cathartic and comforting relief from the stress, anxiety, fear, and other emotions, the relief is temporary. Pulling out hair is often the only way a person with trichotillomania knows how to cope, so the urge and temptation to pull out hair to relieve stress is powerful, and only grows stronger when a person is feeling low, upset, anxious, or depressed.
- Trichotillomania can develop at any time in a person’s life.
While it is most common to see signs of trichotillomania between the ages of 9 and 13, a person can begin experiencing symptoms as young as 3 years old and at any point in adolescence or adulthood.
- The cause of trichotillomania is unknown.
The cause of the onset of trichotillomania is unknown, but there are risk factors that can trigger the onset of trichotillomania.
The following are triggers that can cause the onset of trichotillomania when coupled with having an increased risk of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or related mental health disorders:
- Experiencing or having to deal with a traumatic event
- Experiencing something that causes emotional distress, such as grief, loss, or the ending of a relationship
- Feeling overwhelmed with work related to either a career or education
- Having emotional issues that are not resolved or aggravated
- Not having a healthy outlet for your feelings, emotions and stress