Trichotillomania is a distressing condition that sees sufferers literally pulling their own hair out, here are the essentials.
What Is Trichotillomania?
Trichotillomania is categorized as a medical illness that causes the sufferer to pull on their own hair. The sufferer will typically pull away at the same type of hair, be that eyebrow, eyelash or the scalp. The condition typically affects young people between the ages of 9 and 13 and mostly presents in girls. But it can affect anyone of any age. Untreated the disorder can recur for anything up to a year. The sufferer is required to cope with the stress of the absent hair, which may have left them without eyelashes or with a bald patch on their head. The impact from the sense of losing control should not be underestimated, even though the pulled hair will often be chewed or rolled in the fingers, as the sufferer is normally completely unaware that they are doing it… but are painfully reminded when they look in the mirror.
Suggested causes range from an issue with chemical messages passing between the nerve cells in the brain, to genetic predisposition and stress. The condition often presents alongside other compulsive disorders like biting nails or sucking thumbs, or scratching.
The first thing to do is to get a diagnosis. This is quickly achieved with a short meeting with a doctor, there will be an examination and a series of questions aimed at getting to the possible cause. Once diagnosed the condition can be treated through therapy or medication. Despite a lack of research on trichotillomania there are effective therapies that can help the sufferer reduce the incidences of pulling or even stop altogether.
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Trichotillomania is a distressing condition because it affects mostly very young people. They can suffer at school and among their friends through being teased, promoting feelings of isolation that will only make the condition worse. For parents trying to come to terms with the underlying conditions that are causing triggering the hair pulling it is also a testing time. Early diagnosis and support is the key, so keep a look out for the symptoms.
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