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What is Trichotillomania?

POSTED: 25 June 2021

Trichotillomania is a mental health condition where sufferers feel the urge to pull out their hair. Around 350,000 people in the UK are thought to be affected by the condition, although the actual figure could be higher. Trichotillomania is more common in women, teenagers and young adults, but anyone can suffer from it. 


What are the symptoms of trichotillomania? 


Trichotillomania suffers repeatedly pull out their body hair, most commonly from the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes, although hair can be pulled from any part of the body. The urge to pull out the hair can be very intense, followed by a sense of relief afterwards. It can be a very distressing condition, with sufferers reporting varying degrees of hair loss as a result of the compulsion. Some people also find it embarrassing, going to great lengths to disguise the thinning hair. 


What causes trichotillomania? 


The exact cause of trichotillomania is unknown, although it has been compared to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) due to the similarity of the symptoms. Trichotillomania may also be a reaction to stress or anxiety, as some sufferers only have the compulsion to pull the hair during, particularly stressful periods. However, this is not true of all cases, as some sufferers find that they pull their hair out subconsciously, even when they are in a relaxed state. 


How is trichotillomania treated? 


As it is a chronic mental health condition, trichotillomania unfortunately won’t just go away on its own – it requires treatment. Sufferers needn’t feel embarrassed about seeking help, as it is a relatively common condition. Other treatments may focus on learning to recognise triggers and patterns of hair-pulling. 

Treatment is usually Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, using a specialist technique known as habit reversal training, which aims to help sufferers replace the compulsion to pull their hair out with a less harmful habit. Medication is rarely prescribed to treat trichotillomania, except where it presents alongside other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Your GP will be able to examine the areas of hair loss to ensure there is no other reason behind the shedding and offer referrals for further treatment. 


Can people with trichotillomania undergo a hair transplant?  


If patients are currently suffering from trichotillomania, they will not be a suitable candidate for surgery. However, if you have long-term hair loss as a result of the disorder and no longer have the compulsion to pull the hair, it may be an option. If you would like to find out if you are a suitable candidate for hair transplant surgery, please get in touch

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