While eyelash extensions and eyebrow fillers are all the rage, there are a group of individuals who struggle to not pull out their hair. This hair pulling is a very real disorder, called Trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is a body focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) characterized by the irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body. Hair pulling is often used as a way to alleviate stress or refocus anxiety.
There are two different types of hair pulling:
- Focused, where individuals focus on a specific area or pull the hair to get relief from a specific tension or anxiety. An example is a certain area of the head where a bald spot would eventually be seen from pulling. Usually the individual spends time in front of a mirror to conduct the pulling.
- Automatic, where people just pull hair more subconsciously when they are bored. An example is sitting and reading a book or watching TV and your hand involuntarily goes to your head.
Often times, hair pulling can give a sense of pleasure or relief. However, this pleasure is short lived and often leads to bigger consequences like bald spots and/or missing eyebrows or lashes. People with this disorder are aware of the damage they are doing with this impulsive behavior, however, they struggle to stop themselves. This is why therapeutic intervention is so important.
Trichotillomania is an OCD related condition. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT) are key treatments often recommended. Currently there are no medications specifically for Trichotillomania, but there are some that may be suggested to help with the related distress and anxiety.
Behavioral therapy and parental/familial support is very essential to help with motivation of diminishing the urge to pull and address the environmental stressors that lead to this impulsive behavior.
AOTCF simple tip – “Recognizing the urge to pull and substitute with other things to do with your hands such as using a fidget toy or knitting”.
The Anxiety and OCD Treatment Center of Florida successfully treats children, teens and adults with Trichotillomania (TTM) and other BFRBs using a combination of education and the most up to date evidence based treatment: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT),
Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention Therapy (CBIT), as well as Medication Management.