Trichotillomania is the official 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, even though you may realise that such behaviour 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 used to treating the disorder.
Psychological disorders such as trichotillomania are known as impulse control disorders, and while not linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), there are similarities between symptoms, and can also co-exist with the condition. The compulsive desire to pull out hair on your body can sometimes cause baldness, with common methods of hair pulling using your fingers and occasionally tweezers or similar instruments.
Once parts of hair have been removed anxiety may be temporarily relieved. Hair-pulling usually occurs during periods of heightened stress, but can also happen when distracted or relaxed such as when you are reading a book or watching TV. The condition can cause embarrassment, with many people with trichotillomania choosing to pull their hair in private, with a general desire to hide the disorder from others.
The combination of compulsive hair pulling affecting your appearance, with pulling at the scalp in particular often leaving patchy bald spots, and the distress caused through both the overwhelming urge to pull at your bodily hair and feelings of embarrassment associated with the condition can cause significant distress. This can interfere with both work and social areas of your life, although it is important to remember that many people receiving treatment for trichotillomania have reduced the extent of their hair pulling or even stopped 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 reduce or even remove its impact from your everyday life.
Therapy treatment programmes are usually recommended when treating trichotillomania, and would usually be offered to you on an outpatient basis. If you have other mental health disorders which coincide with trichotillomania, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse, 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, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in May 2020. To view all Priory trichotillomania specialists, please click here.