It may even seem innocent, but pulling out compulsive hair is a harmful act and may indicate the presence of a mental disorder linked to other illnesses.
Hair pulling is a disease
According to psychologist Lizandra Arita, a clinic and institutional specialist, the hair-pulling craze is a disorder called Trichotillomania.
Its main feature is the uncontrollable compulsion to twist or pull hair, which can result in areas of baldness.
Brazilian psychologist and professor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Wilze Bruscato, says that trichotillomania is considered a self-injurious behavior and an impulse control disorder.
Act may be conscious or unconscious
It happens consciously, but at times, the act may happen when the person is in an unpleasant or stressful situation and they don’t realize they’re doing it unconsciously.
Who can have Trichotillomania?
The problem can target people of any gender and age, but it is more common in young children, adolescent women, and adults.
“Although this happens commonly in women, it’s important to take into consideration that some men also deal with this disorder,” says psychologist Bruscato.
Causes of hair pulling disorder
The disorder may be linked to several factors, such as stress, sadness, relationship problems, depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to Wilze, the impulse is associated with Onychophagy, which is the nail-biting addiction.
“Usually, it is associated with genetics, that is, there is someone in the patient’s family with a history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, tics or manias,” adds the specialist.
Baldness and hair loss
Trichotillomania can affect any part of the body, from the hair of the head to the hairs of arms, legs, eyebrows, eyelashes, among others.
Losses in relationships
The disease causes suffering and damages several aspects of the person who faces it, such as social and professional life.
Trichophagia: tearing hair and eating
In some cases, trichotillomania develops into trichophagia, which is the disorder characterized by pulling out hair and performing oral behaviors such as biting or eating it.
The great risk of this behavior is the Rapunzel syndrome, which results in the accumulation of hairs in the digestive tract and, consequently, intestinal obstruction. Surgery is then performed to remove hairballs.
Does the disease have a cure?
Fortunately, the disorder can be controlled and cured through proper medical and psychological treatment.
How to stop hair pulling?
The first step is to confirm if you have trichotillomania. The diagnosis is 100 percent clinical and can be done by a psychiatrist, dermatologist, and psychotherapist.
Then there are two possible treatments that are, in most cases, associated:
Anxiety and antidepressant medications indicated by a psychiatrist reduces anxiety, depression, and other problems that may be driving compulsive behaviors.
Therapy sessions are also encouraged to identify the origin of the problem, how to deal with them, and how to stop.
“Another important complement to treatment is participation in support groups for people with the same condition,” advises the psychologist.