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Why Does One Pull Their Hair Out? (Trichotillomania)

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Hair pulling or Trichotillomania is a complex disorder and no one really knows why the individual pulls his or her hair. There are some risk factors which have been linked to this disturbing disorder and include:

Family history. There is a tendency for Trichotillomania to run in families. If there is a family member, either parent or sibling who has engaged in this behavior, chances are that or you may be affected. The chances of another family member developing same problem are about 5-25 percent.

Age: Trichotillomania usually first develops just after puberty and unfortunately in some cases, is life long. Children as young as 5-6 have been known to pull their hair. In such cases, it is not know if this is a case of temper tantrum or other behavior related problem. In children and teenagers less than age 16, the most common triggering factors are stress, the home environment, and school life. Common stressors in these individuals, which induce hair pulling, are changing school, divorce, death of a parent, constant moving and hormonal changes. It is commonly observed that younger children often pull their hair during bedtime or eating. Teenagers pull their hair in the daytime, most commonly in their bedroom, bathroom or in some secret location.

Gender: From medical follow-ups, it appears that women are more affected. However, these numbers have a treatment bias, as more women tend to seek help. Most men hide this problem and feel embarrassed to seek help. Overall, it appears that both genders are equally affected by Trichotillomania.

Feature of Hair: A few individuals pull out their hair because of a body image distortion. They simply do not like their hair. Some individuals do not like the color, others do not like the style and yet others hate the texture.

Emotions: The great majority of individuals who pull their hair out have emotional problems. Many of these individuals deal with their negative emotions (stress, anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, tension) by pulling out their hair. Estimates indicate that at least 40-70 percent of individuals who have Trichotillomania also have other mental disorder like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or some type of eating disorder (bulimia, anorexia)

Reinforcement: Some individuals find that after pulling the hair, they feel better. These individuals often pull the hairs and hold it close to their skin, which gives them a good feeling. Unfortunately, this creates a positive reinforcement and leads to a cycle of hair pulling.

Unfortunately, even when these risk factors are identified, treatment is difficult and relapses are common.

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

We had this case once with our neighbors, we thought it just a plain habits that she pulled her too often that it leaves a bald part on her head. Later on, we found that what she is doing is a result of some kind of a sickness we don't usually know. We asked some experts, and they explained us well and refer us to them: http://www.lucindaellery-hairloss.com/trichotillomania.php

So in general, if ever you found something strange in someone's behavior better have a second look on what have had happen on the person's life.

April 10, 2012 - 12:02am
EmpowHER Guest

I have trichotillomania, and have been dealing with hair pulling on and off for approximately 15- 16 years. Another website that's really extremely helpful is a support website:

September 25, 2010 - 12:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am so sorry you both are experiencing the hair pulling. Yes, is almost falls under an obsessive compulsive disorder but there are help groups and help for your children. Stress is one of the main causes for this disorder but don't feel as if your alone. This happens more often than not.

Here are some websites that you may find helpful. I am sure you both will find them helpful. Please keep us updated!

Trichotillomania Organization

Useful information from the mayo Clinic about Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania Support Line

Here is a great support group with posts

I hope these help.

June 26, 2010 - 10:52am
EmpowHER Guest

My two little girls there one and two and there in a foster home but they come home on weekend and are getting ready to come back home. the foster mother told me the girls have been pulling there hair out and eating it. My one year old is bald on both sides now and the two year old has bold spots. I don't under stand why this is happening if anyone has any answers on why this is happening please let me know.
Thank You.

June 26, 2010 - 10:02am
EmpowHER Guest

My son is 13 years old.He has ADD,and i don't know if his ADD has caused him to pull his hair but for some reason the first time he pulled his hair it was a place as big as your whole hand and was completly bald.I had him on several medications and thought it was side affects from them.but then i took him off the meds he still has times where he pulls his hair just in spots as big as a dime or a little bigger.I just noticed yesturday that he has picked his hair again but this time it was not just hair,he had gotten into the meat now its like a small dip in his scalp.Please if anyone knows what i can do to help my son with this problem please let me know.I took him to see his doctor when he first did the big area and his doctor told me to cut his hair real short to let people see the spots so it would inbarrass him and then he wouldn't pull his hair and more.so i did and it didnt work.so if you have any ideas to help him please let me know asap..thanks Kathy

May 10, 2010 - 5:02pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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