Trichotillomania: Complications, Treatments, Symptoms and Aesthetic Solutions

Trichotillomania does not fit correctly in the category of “hair loss”, because in this case the hair does not fall: it is pulled out. It is a compulsive behavior often associated with pictures of stress, depression and anxiety, which leads the person to pull and pull their own hair.

The problem is more common – and dangerous – than it seems. It is believed that up to 4% of the population can be affected (women are four times more likely to develop the disease than men). When pulled hair is ingested (a disorder called trichophagia), health complications can be very serious, even fatal.

The danger is even greater because most of those affected suffer in silence . The shame of developing visible patches of baldness is coupled with the shame of admitting that the same person pulled the hair out, which can lead to social isolation and further exacerbate the problem.

It is not a harmless habit, it is not “cool”, it is not “to attract attention”, it is not out of boredom, trichotillomania is a serious thing, and it has a treatment.

How do you know if you have trichotillomania?

It is not known exactly what factors affect the onset of trichotillomania. Some people present the behavior from childhood, others start after some important, traumatic or stressful event. It is believed that genetic factors may also have some influence on the appearance of the disorder.

Despite the frequent association with stress and anxiety, in most cases the behavior appears in situations of boredom or as an automatic habit , without much attention directed to what you are doing (unconsciously pulling your hair while the person studies, watches television, talks on the phone or reads a book, for example).

In other situations, trichotillomaniacs look for hair that falls within a specific criteria (in a defined area of ​​the head where the hair has a certain texture or length, that appears tousled or out of place, is white or lighter in color / dark than others). Many people say they feel stress and anxiety , followed by great relief from pulling their hair and later guilt for doing it – which is close to the image of patterns seen in a vice .

If you want to know if this disease is caused by stress, see our article: Are you stressed? Tips to improve it day by day !!!

Usually, the behavior manifests itself when the individual is alone, and the hair is not always the goal: hair can also be pulled from other parts of the body (eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, etc.).

The disorder is a frequent cause of social shame , either due to criticism from family and friends (who often do not understand that the behavior is a disease, and not a simple and easy action to stop) or the visual impact generated when the areas diffuse or with total absence of hair are evident. It is common for trichotillomaniacs to try to hide the signs, either by using scarves, hats or other devices to cover the most damaged areas of the scalp , and deliberately pulling hair from different areas of the head to distribute the effect and make it less perceptible.

trichotillomania social embarrassment

Many people “play” with broken hair, wrapping it in their hands, examining it, or putting it in their mouth, and may even swallow it. This condition is called trichophagia and can lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, internal bleeding and severe gastrointestinal obstructions, which sometimes require surgical intervention and can even be fatal if not diagnosed correctly in time.

Broken hair can take anywhere from a few months to many years to fully recover (depending on the length of the hair and the speed with which it grows). If the trauma caused to the follicle is very great (which can occur especially with repeated hair removal for a long time), hair may stop being produced completely .

Face the problem

The first step is to recognize what is happening . The individual must accept their condition and understand that it is a compulsive, serious behavior that requires treatment.

Some people try to control the problem on their own, but it is important to say that if you do not succeed, it is not a failure. Controlling a disorder with only your own willpower may be possible, but it is often the hardest way. Doing and accepting help is the most important thing anyone can do to finally master the problem.

Many people seek dermatological care to deal with alleged hair loss , but are embarrassed to report that they were the ones who pulled their hair out, which can lead to misdiagnosis and complicated, expensive treatments with the risk of effects serious secondary, and on the other hand, ineffective, since they do not treat the real cause of the problem. If this is the case for you, remember that lying to your doctor only ends up doing you more harm .

Possible treatments to avoid pulling your hair out

Possible treatments to avoid pulling your hair out

The currently considered most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy , carried out by specialized psychologists. There are several methods within this category, but generally the factors that can trigger the impulse to pull the hair are identified (time of day, events, feelings, states of mind, specific places, etc.) and then behavioral alternatives are adopted harmless as a replacement for the automatic response of hair pulling.

In the most severe cases associated with other disorders, psychiatric treatment can be sought with the administration of antidepressants, anxiolytics, and other drugs, but in most cases psychological treatment itself already shows promising results.

To speed up the recovery of bald areas on the scalp, one possibility that you can discuss with your dermatologist is the use of minoxidil (in the form of lotions, foams, or creams) to stimulate the follicles to produce new hair. Find more information about minoxidil in our article that explains everything you need.

If the bald area generated by the hair tear is very visible, it is possible that a hair prosthesis is a good solution to solve the aesthetic problem while the natural hairs recover. The prosthesis can be purchased in the format of the affected area, and the models that are glued to the scalp with adhesives allow the user to maintain an absolutely normal routine (you can swim, exercise or wash your hair without removing the prosthesis). For more information on hair prostheses click here.

Participation in support groups , where you can socialize and exchange experiences with other people who suffer from the same condition, can be a very positive experience. If you can’t find any in your city, there are always online forums.

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Kathie Sand always saw the world of beauty as the terrain on which to build her professional career, a goal that was clear to her when she was only 15 years old. Her great concern to expand knowledge led her to settle in Paris where she studied hand in hand with the best beauty professionals and with the most advanced techniques for skin care.

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