Trichotillomania, also known as hair pulling disorder, is a type of disorder where a person has an irresistible urge to continuously pull out their hair, either on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes or on any other part of their body. As a result of pulling off the hair, the person becomes bald in that particular area where the hair is being pulled.
Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder, meaning that people with this condition find themselves unable to resist the urge or impulse to pull their hair out.
People who suffer from Trichotillomania often find themselves feeling embarrassed because the of baldness on a particular part of the body and tend to try and cover up the signs.
Trichotillomania can be focused - where the person will deliberately pull hair in search of a sense of relief or automatic - when one doesn’t realise that they are pulling out their hair.
As expected, the condition can lead to many negative effects in a person’s emotional and mental life and health, a very prominent aspect being a digression in one’s self confidence because of the baldness, which very often leads to an unwillingness to socialise with others or be seen in public.
Like most impulse control disorders, trichotillomania is particularly predominant amongst teenagers and females. For many, the condition is mild and easily controlled, however there are others who experience severe trichotillomania, suffering from overwhelming urges to pull hairs from their bodies.
Studies have revealed that the use of natural supplements in one’s diet in addition to a healthy and balanced lifestyle are key factors in controlling Trichotillomania.
Causes of Trichotillomania
As of yet, the definitive cause of Trichotillomania is unknown. However, several factors have been found which are believed to trigger the condition. Below are a list of examples.
- Brain Abnormalities: Abnormal brain function in the areas of the brain which are responsible for emotional stability, movement and impulse control have been found to lead to Trichotillomania. The brain’s ability to control impulse can also be affected by an imbalance of hormones within the body.
- Genetic factors: Studies have suggested that there are hereditary aspects of Trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania can correlate with other conditions, including anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Stress and depression can often trigger the pulling of hair in an attempt to relieve tension.
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
Symptoms of Trichotillomania differ in individuals. Below are a list of the most common signs and symptoms associated with the condition:
- Regular pulling of hairs, leading to baldness
- Feeling relieved after pulling hair out of the body
- Attempts to reduce the hair pulling
- Pulling of the hair from a particular area
- Missing eyelashes or eyebrows
- Biting or ingestion of pulled hair
- Playing with the hair once it has been pulled
- Pulling hair from other surfaces, eg. furniture or the hair of pets
Effects of Trichotillomania
The effect trichotillomania has on individuals varies from person to person. As previously stated, some people only experience mild forms of the condition and find it relatively straightforward to control. For others, the condition can be much more serious, and prove embarrassing and frustrating in their daily lives.
Some sufferers of the condition become so embarrassed and self conscious that they find themselves avoiding any form of intimate and sexual relationships.
The emotional instability associated with dealing with a severe form of the condition increases the chances of developing an anxiety disorder. It also affects social life and relationships with family members.
Trichotillomania can also cause physical damage such as damage to the tissues or infection. Some people ingest the hair they pulled which can also be harmful to the body.
Diagnosis of Trichotillomania
Trichotillomania is diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms of a patient as opposed to being diagnosed in a lab using blood samples. The doctor in charge of diagnosing may choose to refer a client to a psychiatrist or psychologist to confirm the diagnose.
The use of nutritional and natural supplements in treating Trichotillomania
When used in conjunction with therapy, the following natural supplements aid greatly in the controlling of Trichotillomania:
- N-acetylcysteine: This is an amino acid supplement which contains L-cysteine. L-cysteine is vital in ensuring the proper functioning of the brain.
- Potassium: Potassium supplements, when taken in moderation, have been found to help control Trichotillomania.
Other natural supplements such as 5-HTP and tryptophan have been proven to be effective in the treatment of Trichotillomania.
A Holistic Approach in the treatment of Trichotillomania
When taking a holistic approach to the treatment of Trichotillomania, you are taking the entire body and lifestyle of the client into consideration, as opposed to referring only to the condition.
Various forms of psychotherapy can be used to control Trichotillomania.
An example is Habit Reversal Therapy, where clients are encouraged to replace unhealthy behaviour and habits with healthy ones. Clients identify what triggers their urges and work with the therapist on methods to avoid and ignore these triggers.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy also offers many benefits in the treatment of Trichotillomania. During CBT sessions the client identifies how their thoughts come to affect their behaviours, and how changing negative and unhealthy thoughts can affect their behaviour patterns in positive ways.