Trichotillomania is the term used for a hair-pulling disorder, which is a mental health condition involving repeated urges to pull out your hair from different parts of your body, including your scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. This behaviour persists even though you know that this will have negative effects, including noticeable hair loss.
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Treatment at Priory for trichotillomania takes advantage of growing research into the condition, with talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) found to be useful in reducing the severity of symptoms. Priory’s nationwide network of wellbeing centres and hospitals can offer highly specialised outpatient care with experienced therapists and consultants.
Psychological disorders such as trichotillomania are known as impulse control disorders. The condition shares some similarities with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and it's also possible for trichotillomania to co-exist with OCD. The compulsive desire to pull out hair on your body can sometimes cause baldness. Methods of hair pulling could be using your fingers and occasionally tweezers or similar instruments.
Once parts of your hair have been removed, this may temporarily reduce any anxiety you're feeling. Hair pulling usually occurs during periods of heightened stress, but it can also happen when you're distracted or relaxed such as when you're reading a book or watching TV. The condition can cause embarrassment; many people with trichotillomania engage in this behaviour in private, with a general desire to hide the disorder from others.
The combination of compulsive hair pulling affecting your appearance, the distress caused through the overwhelming urge to pull out your hair and feelings of embarrassment associated with the condition, can cause significant distress. This can interfere with your work and social life. However, it's important to understand that trichotillomania is treatable. At Priory, we have helped many people with trichotillomania to significantly reduce the the extent of their hair pulling or even stop entirely.
Treatment for Trichotillomania at Priory
While some people may experience mild and even manageable forms of trichotillomania, if you feel that your compulsive urge to pull your hair is overwhelming, then treatment options available at Priory can help you regain control over these urges and get your life back on track.
Therapy treatment programmes are usually recommended for treating trichotillomania, and would usually be offered to you on an outpatient basis. If you have other mental health conditions that co-occur with trichotillomania, such as depression, anxiety or addictions, a more intensive inpatient treatment programme may also be recommended in order to tackle the underlying cause of the condition.
This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Ed Burns (MBChB, MRCPsych, MSc) in May 2018.