Q: What is trichotillomania (trick-oh-till-oh-mania)? A: Compulsive hair pulling to the point of noticeable hair loss. Q: What causes it? A: No one has pinpointed a precise cause...
What is trichotillomania (trick-oh-till-oh-mania)?
Compulsive hair pulling to the point of noticeable hair loss.
What causes it?
No one has pinpointed a precise cause, but hair pulling seems to provide stress relief, pleasure or gratification for some people.
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When does it start?
Pulling often starts around puberty but it can occur as soon as a baby is old enough to grasp his or her hair. In kids younger than 6, the pulling may stop on its own. In teens and adults, the disorder may wax and wane over the years.
What are the risks?
Hair-pullers often feel consumed by shame and feel uncomfortable around others. Usually, when pulling stops, the hair grows back eventually though it may be thinner or a different texture. Eyelashes may stop growing back altogether. People who chew on the hair can form a hairball, which can be life threatening.
How is it treated?
For teens and adults, the standard treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy aimed at reducing the urge and diverting the habit. Some have been helped by antidepressants. Experts urge parents of young pullers not to punish them, but to distract them with a favorite object and reward them when they fiddle with a toy or blanket rather than their hair.
Sources: Trichotillomania Learning Center; National Mental Health Association