The term "trichotillomania" (pronounced: trik-oh-till-oh-may-nee-ah) comes from the Greek words "thrix," meaning "hair" and "tillein" meaning "to pull" and "mania," the Greek word for "madness" or "frenzy". As the name suggests trichotillomania is a psychiatric condition in which an individual has an uncontrollable urge to pull out his or her own body hair. Hair pulling varies greatly in its severity, location on the body, and response to treatment. For people suffering from trichotillomania, hair pulling is more than a habit. It is rather a compulsive behavior, which the person finds very hard to stop. The cause of tricholomania is thought to be the imbalance of chemicals in the human brain.
Trichotillomania was thought to be a rare condition in the past but recently, more and more physicians have diagnosed this condition (1% of the entire US population has been diagnosed). But that thinking is now changing as experts gain a better understanding of the condition and more people come forward for help. Trichotillomania affects more females than males. Most people who have it develop it during adolescence. But trichotillomania can start when a person is as young as 1 year old.
What Happens With Trichotillomania?
People with trichotillomania pull hair out at the root from places like the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or pubic area. Some people pull large handfuls of hair, which can leave bald patches on the scalp or eyebrows. Other people pull out their hair one strand at a time. Some inspect the strand after pulling it out, or play with the hair after it's been pulled. About half of people with the condition put the hair in their mouths after pulling it.
It might be hard to understand why someone would pull their own hair or eyelashes out or why they wouldn't just stop. But trichotillomania isn't just an ordinary habit that a person can easily stop. It is currently defined as an impulse control disorder but there are still questions about how it should be classified. It may seem to resemble a habit, an addiction, a tic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most recently, it is being conceptualized as part of a family of "body-focused repetitive behaviors" (BRFBs) along with skin picking and nail biting. Some people with trichotillomania also have problems like depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Compulsive behaviors like trichotillomania can sometimes run in families.
Trichotillomania (also referred to as TTM or "trich") is currently defined as an impulse control disorder but there are still questions about how it should be classified. It may seem to resemble a habit, an addiction, a tic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most recently, it is being conceptualized as part of a family of "body-focused repetitive behaviors" (BRFBs) along with skin picking and nail biting.
Hair loss caused by TTM cannot be treated with the use of the usual topical ointments or creams. It is best to deal with the psychological underlying factor so that the hair pulling would cease and hair loss be stopped. It is advisable for the patient to seek professional advice, that sometimes might include psychotherapy and prescribed medication.
For more detailed information about trichotillomania or about how to find support for this issue, please visit the national website at www.trich.org,