Written by Philip Kingsley Trichologist, Jane Martins.
Trichotillomania is a self-inflicted hair loss resulting from repeated pulling of the hair. It is usually not caused by psychological factors or life events – but these are possibly the triggers of its onset. It is much more prevalent than was initially thought. And is most common in girls at puberty or peri menopausal women, which tends to indicate that it can be connected to hormonal or sexuality issues.
Some individuals connect trichotillomania with stressful events making the patient more conscious of the situation and their hair. In some circumstances they may connect their hair pulling with a feeling of infestation of their scalp. But others just experience a feeling of pleasure through hair pulling.
Trichotillomania can be confused with alopecia areata (patchy hairloss) and often the person may not voluntarily admit to doing it, therefore leaving the condition misdiagnosed. It is important to understand that the constant pulling of the hair may eventually prevent hairs from re-growing. Hair pulling can take place whilst watching television, talking on the telephone and is usually a solitary activity. The areas of the scalp being affected tend to be easily camouflaged and covered with the hair that is left.
There is no magic treatment which will help to treat trichotillomania. Often psychological therapy is needed. However, positive steps can be taken in order to address it. These include:
- Acceptance – a willingness to acknowledge the problem and identify the possible causes.
- Substituting the hair pulling behaviour with a positive alternative.
It is difficult to break the habit of hair pulling. But by doing so, there is a good chance that the hair will grow back. Although some people affected by it find that the hair grows back with a different texture. Applying conditioner to the affected areas may help to interrupt the habit as the hair is not easily gripped. Wearing gloves, particularly during the evening when the habit is usually at its height, is another alternative.