The term 'trichotillomania' refers to an impulsive control disorder that is characterized by the compulsive need to pull out hair from the scalp, eyebrows, or other parts of the body. In mild cases, the affected person might be able to resist the urge to some extent, but for some, the urge is too strong to overcome.
Some may do it intentionally, and some unconsciously. This habit might leave the affected person in a state of distress. One might feel stressed when trying to resist the urge. A sense of relief might be felt after one acts on the impulse.
Although there are no specific contributing factors, experts believe that genes or neurochemicals might be linked to the development of this disorder. They believe that a mutation in the SLITRK1 gene might be a contributing factor.
This gene is also linked to a neurological disorder known as Tourette syndrome, wherein the affected person makes unusual movements or abnormal sounds. It is believed that an imbalance in the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) could be responsible for triggering this condition.
A few studies suggest that there might be a link between this disorder and depression/anxiety. Also, it has been reported that this condition might run in the family, and people who have relatives suffering from this disease might be more vulnerable.
The symptoms are easily noticeable. The most common ones include:
- They might feel stressed, while resisting the urge, and feel relieved after pulling their hair.
- The constant pulling of hair might result in the development of bald patches or patches with reduced hair.
- Affected person might deny that they have this disorder. They might hide the bald patches with a cap or scarf.
- Affected person might display other bizarre behavior such as twirling the hair, inspecting the hair root, chewing or eating the pulled-out hair (called trichophagia).
There aren't many options when it comes to treating trichotillomania. As of now, doctors recommend drug therapy and psychotherapy. Many people have benefited from the treatment. The form of psychotherapy that is used here is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
During the sessions with the psychotherapist, the patient becomes aware of his/her urge to pull hair, along with the repercussions. Also, patient is taught how to substitute the urge to pull hair. Medications may also be required in some cases. However, they tend to be more effective when used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
Though others might find this behavior difficult to understand, the family members of the affected person must seek medical help soon. Things will be easier, once the affected person is no longer in denial, and is ready to follow the advice of the therapist.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.