Hair Pulling (trichotillomania)

Hair Pulling (trichotillomania)

Hair pulling that leads to noticeable hair loss is called trichotillomania. Hair pulling is also concerning in children as some parents worry that a permanent bald patch may develop, but that is unlikely to happen. Hair pulling can be part of other mental disorders or related to stress. Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves them with patchy bald spots on their head, which they may go to great lengths to disguise. Often used as a coping strategy for an underlying issue, any relief that comes with hair pulling usually only lasts for a moment. The problem of compulsive hair pulling is as old as human hair. Sites of hair pulling may include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or even pubic hair.

Stressful situations often increase hair-pulling behaviour, and people say that they feel tense immediately before hair pulling. It can occur in states of relaxation such as watching television, where they are not even aware of their behaviour or in times of stress where hair pulling serves as a release of tension.

Some hair-pullers have success with simple behavioural devices such as putting bandages on their fingers to interfere with pulling, keeping records of their hair pulling or changing environmental cues that can trigger pulling. Yet, when given a diagnosis of hair pulling, or “trichotillomania”, many adamantly deny it.