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Know someone with a hair pulling disorder? This Trichotillomania article helps define why someone pulls their hair out, contains information on what trichologia behavior disorder symptoms to look for, and what treatments are available for trichotillomania.

Trichotillomania (pronounced, trick-oh-till-oh-MAY-knee-uh), also called trichologia or trichomania, comes from three roots:

  • tricho is a Greek form meaning "hair"
  • tillo is from the Greek verb tillein meaning "to pluck hair"
  • mania is a form from the Greek and in this case, refers to an abnormally strong desire or compulsion and is not connected to the disease sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder or, more often these days, bipolar disorder.

It refers to compulsive pulling out of one's own hair.

Trichotillomania has in common with bipolar disorder that it used to be known by another name, chronic traction alopecia. Two different descriptions are offered.

  1. When a patient is delirious, he or she may engage in pulling his or her own hair out.
  2. Trichotillomania can also refer to a compulsion that is considered an impulse control disorder and linked to habit disorders, such thumb-sucking, as well as tics.

It is the second that is most commonly meant. According to one source, it begins in childhood, afflicts as many as two and a half million Americans, and is eight times more common in girls than in boys in pre-adolescents, with the numbers becoming three to one by adulthood. It is said to peak at age twelve to thirteen. According to a second source, symptoms appear prior to age seventeen, the disorder is believed to affect as much as four percent of the population, and women have the disorder four times as often as men. The causes are unclear, but it is believed that there may be a genetic component.


Those who have trichotillomania may pull out hair from their scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or other areas. The hair may be pulled in a pattern, or the resulting bare patches may be diffuse. Although their hair assumes an uneven appearance, and they may continually pull, tug, or twist their hair, they may deny that they do so. They may exhibit other types of self-injury behaviors, and while there may be a sense of tension prior to pulling their hair, they may feel a sense of relief afterwards. Some people with trichotillomania eat their hair, and when this is the case, they may suffer from a bowel blockage. Hair pulling will usually be done in private. Most of those who pull their hair know they're doing it, though some may do it unconsciously.


Treatment approaches include the use of hypnosis, Cognitive Behavior Modification therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, including habit-reversal training, and medications, including Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), amitriptyline, and for short periods, tricyclic antidepressants. Because Trichotillomania may coexist with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, or eating disorders, treatment may not be successful unless all issues are being dealt with.  If the hair is eaten, it can cause physical problems due to hairball build up in the digestive tract. Patients also deal with feelings of shame and embarrassment about their disorder.




Related Article: Cognitive Behavior Therapy >>

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