What is trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania involves an irresistible urge to pull out hair. This behavior occurs to the point of noticeable hair loss. The most common areas for hair pulling are the scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows, but the person may pull out hair anywhere on the body.

In children, trichotillomania occurs equally in males and females. In adults, it is more common in women than in men.

What causes trichotillomania?

The exact cause of trichotillomania is not yet known, but it appears to involve both biological and behavioral factors. The risk of developing trichotillomania is slightly higher in people who have relatives with the disorder, suggesting that a tendency for the disorder to be inherited. In some cases, people with trichotillomania also have other disorders such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What are the symptoms of trichotillomania?

A person with trichotillomania cannot control or resist the urge to pull out his or her body hair. Other symptoms that might occur with this disorder include the following:

  • A sense of tension before pulling hair or when trying to resist the urge to pull hair
  • A feeling of relief, satisfaction and/or pleasure after acting on the impulse to pull hair
  • Presence of bare patches where the hair has been pulled out
  • Presence of other associated behaviors such as inspecting the hair root, twirling the hair, pulling the hair between the teeth, chewing on the hair, or eating hair (called trichophagia)

Many people who have trichotillomania try to deny they have a problem and may attempt to hide their hair loss by wearing hats, scarves, and false eyelashes and eyebrows.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/02/2018.

References

  • The TLC Foundation for Body-Focus Repetitive Behaviors. What is Trichotillomania? Accessed 06/15/2018.
  • American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychology. Hair Pulling (Trichotillomania). Accessed 06/15/2018.
  • Otberg N, Shapiro J. Chapter 88. Hair Growth Disorders. In: Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest BA, Paller AS, Leffell DJ, Wolff K. eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012. 06/15/2018.

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