The poorly understood condition of trichotillimania, self-inflicted hair loss, is starting to get attention it the press. Time to bring you up to date on what we do know…
It turns out that far from being an incredibly rare condition trichotillimania might be affecting anything up to 3 or 4% of the population, with women something like three times more likely to suffer. It was only designated as an illness in 1987 and prior to that anyone reporting with the symptoms to their doctor, it often appears in the mid-teen years, would be given short shrift. Worse still, prevailing theories on the behaviour centred around the relationship between the sufferer and their parents, especially mothers, who were usually held responsible. The suggestion being that the hair pulling was borne of frustration at being emotionally shut out.
There were other even more outlandish theories but none offering any sympathy or understanding. Fortunately attitudes have been slowly shifting since it officially became a recognised illness, along with some other behavioural issues like skin pulling. Studies, still small and at an early stage, have begun to unravel the secrets but it is fair to assess progress as minimal at this point.
One interesting theory, only backed up by some statistical analysis at this stage, is that the sufferer might be pulling as a way to regulate an internal state of sensory imbalance. The theory is based on the idea that some people are over stimulated by regular noises and touch. These people, the theory goes, pull their hair or pick their skin to offset that overload. A 2013 study found that people with these urges were more likely to have conditions such as anxiety.
At present there is no cure for trichotillimania. A couple of studies have been done and one compound did show some results… N-acetylcysteine, known as NAC, is sold over the counter in health food shops and proved helpful in up to 50% of the study group, although some of the placebo group experienced an improvement too.
Beyond medication good work is being done in training sufferers to spot the conditions that trigger the behaviour. Some, who successfully come through the process and end up owning their condition, describe the overall experience as character-building and one that they would not swap.
HIS Hair Clinic
Trichotillimania is under discussed and little understood. A blight on the life of anyone that suffers with it, many choose to mask the problem with make-up and wigs. Bringing it out into the open will make all the difference in the world.
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