Why Can’t Some People Stop Pulling Out Their Own Hair?
Hair pulling is a common habit for many people, but for some, it goes beyond a simple habit and becomes a medical disorder known as Trichotillomania. This condition can have serious consequences, affecting not only physical health but also emotional well-being.
Let’s take a look at what Trichotillomania, also known as hair-pulling disorder, is, why it happens, the health problems it can cause, and most importantly, how individuals can seek help and support.
What Is Trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania is more than just pulling out a few strands of hair. It’s a medical disorder characterized by the irresistible urge to repeatedly pull out your own hair, leading to noticeable hair loss most often with patchy bald spots. And this doesn’t just mean the hair on your head, it could be facial hair, arm hair, or any other hair across your body.
This behavior often serves as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or other negative emotions. It’s actually similar to biting your nails, people do it when their bored or stressed but hair pulling can be disfiguring and societal norms also tell us it’s less acceptable. Unlike occasional hair pulling, Trichotillomania is a diagnosed condition that requires medical attention.
Why Does Trichotillomania Happen?
Unfortunately, the overall cause of trichotillomania isn’t exactly known, but there are a couple things that researchers believe may be the cause.
Genetics and Age
Like male pattern baldness, research suggests that genetics may play a role in the development of Trichotillomania. If someone in your family has struggled with this disorder, you might be more likely to experience it too.
Unlike typical male pattern baldness, trichotillomania often develops just before, or during, your early teen years, as opposed to later in life. Between ages 10-13 is when it’s most commonly seen and is often a lifelong problem that will need to be managed through your doctor.
Neurological and Psychological Factors Such as Stress
Psychological issues and imbalances in our brains can also trigger this urge to pull out hair. Things like stress, anxiety, OCD and other mental disorders can manifest themselves in hair pulling as well.
Leaving trichotillomania unchecked can also lead to the onset of other symptoms related to those disorders, which is why it’s important to consult with your doctor if you believe your hair-pulling is becoming a problem.
Health Problems Caused by Trichotillomania
Physical Consequences of Hair Pulling
Frequent hair pulling can lead to scalp damage, increasing the risk of infections. In severe cases, you can also permanently affect hair growth which can lead to scarred bald patches or hair loss.
Emotional and Psychological Impact
Beyond physical harm, Trichotillomania takes a toll on mental health. Anxiety and depression often accompany this disorder, making it crucial to address both the physical and emotional aspects for a comprehensive recovery. People with trichotillomania may feel the need to wear hats or clothing to cover the bald areas on their scalp. When severe, people may feel they can’t even leave their house impacts both work, family and social situations.
Like biting one’s fingernails, people who pull their hair usually know they are doing it. However, identifying Trichotillomania involves recognizing certain signs. If you find yourself unable to control the urge to pull out hair but find a sense of calmness or relief after pulling out your hair that leads to significant hair loss, you may have trichotillomania and you may need to seek professional guidance.
Remember, occasional hair twirling or accidentally pulling out hair, or hair coming out when brushing, are not signs of trichotillomania. In addition, babies do have a tendency to pull out their own hair when they are very young, so don’t rush to the doctor if you notice this behavior, but keep an eye on it and it doesn’t hurt to mention it at your next appointment.
Seeking Professional Help
Diagnosing Trichotillomania requires the expertise of mental health professionals. Psychologists or psychiatrists can assess your symptoms, ensuring an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.
Treatment Options and Solutions
Behavioral therapy, such as habit reversal training or cognitive-behavioral therapy, is the first step in treating Trichotillomania. These therapies focus on breaking the cycle of hair pulling and replacing it with healthier behaviors.
Certain medications, like antidepressants or mood stabilizers, may be prescribed to help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain and alleviate the symptoms of Trichotillomania.
Do not self-medicate when trying to alleviate symptoms, always seek the help of a professional.
Lifestyle Changes to Support Recovery
Stress Management Techniques
Since stress can bring on Trichotillomania, learning effective stress management techniques is crucial. These may include mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in relaxing activities.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Encouraging healthy coping mechanisms, such as journaling, art, or exercise, can provide alternative outlets for managing emotions, reducing the reliance on hair pulling.
The Connection Between Hair Pulling and Hair Transplants
Trichotillomania can significantly impact hair density, and in some cases, hinder natural regrowth. If hair-pulling continues for long periods of time, it can lead to permanent hair loss which may require medical therapy or a hair transplant in order to repair the damaged areas.
In some cases, scalp damage may occur due to hair-pulling, in which case the disorder will have to be treated before any sort of scalp or hair treatment can be started. If these hair loss treatments are started before the underlying causes are addressed, there’s a good chance that they will not work.
For a hair transplant to be viable, the scalp and mental state of the patient must be well to ensure the best possible outcome for the procedure. If left untreated, trichotillomania will continue to cause problems with the scalp even after a hair transplant is performed, so everything that a person has gone through to receive a hair transplant may be wasted if they continue to pull their hair out after the procedure.
Dealing with Hair-Pulling Disorder
Trichotillomania is a medical disorder with far-reaching effects on both physical and mental well-being. However, there is hope. With a combination of professional help, therapeutic interventions, and a supportive environment, individuals can overcome the challenges posed by this condition. If you or someone you know is grappling with Trichotillomania, remember that seeking help is the first step towards a healthier and happier future.