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What is Trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania, also known as “hair-pulling disorder,” is a psychological disorder characterized by recurrent pulling out or plucking of one’s hair, resulting in hair loss over time. Trichotillomania affects approximately one to two percent of the population in any given year, and is more common in females than males. Some with this disorder limit hair pulling to brief episodes scattered throughout the day, whereas others may engage in hair pulling that can last hours at a time.
In Trichotillomania, hair pulling may be associated with a range of behaviors involving hair, such as searching for hair with a particular texture, trying to remove the hair in a certain way, such as with root intact, or doing something with the hair after it is plucked. It is often associated with various emotional states such as anxiety or boredom. Engaging in hair pulling in the context of these emotional states may result in a feeling of relief once the hair is plucked, which then reinforces future hair pulling. Additionally, some people with trichotillomania report an itch-like sensation that is alleviated once the hair is removed.
Hair loss may or may not be noticeable to others, and the degree of hair loss can be widely variable from person to person. Sometimes, although rare, trichotillomania results in complete baldness. More commonly however, is a noticeable thinning of hair in regions where the hair is pulled, usually the parietal regions of the head or the crown. Some people with trichotillomania conceal otherwise noticeable hair loss by intentionally targeting a different are of the head each time, reducing the likelihood of patches of baldness.
Trichotillomania can result in negative consequences including functional impairment and distress. Additionally, prolonged hair pulling can result in damage to hair growth and hair quality. Oftentimes people with trichotillomania are ashamed of their behavior, and those with more pronounced hair loss opt to isolate from others, resulting in unemployment, school-dropout, and depression.