Trichotillomania affects all people at all ages. There is evidence of onset varying from childhood to late adulthood and for varying reasons, from genetic predisposition to comorbid mental health conditions such as Obessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety Disorder. One thing that is certain about this condition, along with all the other Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs) such as Dermatillomania and Trichophagia, is that it has a harmful impact on the body, which is a cause of tremendous shame and embarrassment for the sufferer.
When inflicted with a debilitating condition such as trichotillomania, we yearn to understand why we are struggling with the behaviour, what causes it, and whether it can be prevented. It is also important to establish the cause of a condition when trying to find a cure or treatment that works. One of the major debates regarding the cause of trichotillomania is whether it is genetic.
They say that beauty is only skin deep, but in a world where aesthetics determines value and stature in life, the desire for physical perfection is rigorously sought. Media and marketing campaigns perpetuate the perception that human beings should define themselves by their physical appearance and that our propensity for success is dependent on our ability to project outward beauty. In this vain it is not unusual for people to modify aspects of their physical appearance in pursuit of such perfection. There is another saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and yet people generally try to conform to the societal projection of how beauty is defined, regardless of its applicability to what is natural or what is in line with cultural preference.
If you are a hair puller and are feeling concerned that your behaviour is more than just a bad habit, you have no doubt searched for answers on the web and come across the term trichotillomania. It can be scary to read up on a condition and find yourself relating to all the signs and symptoms of a clinical disorder. The key is that if you suspect you have a clinical diagnosis of any sort, is to seek professional help for a formal diagnosis. The unfortunate reality though is that there is still very limited awareness about trichotillomania and all other body-focussed repetitive behaviours (BFRBs), and so these conditions often go undiagnosed. In a similar vain, even if you are certain you have trichotillomania your local health professional may not be qualified or experienced enough to help you manage or treat the disorder.
Trichotillomania, or hair pulling disorder has previously been classified as an impulse control disorder. However, the most recent edition of the DSM5 now categorizes disorders such as hair pulling disorder and skin picking disorder as body-focussed repetitive behaviours (BFRBs), under the classification “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders”.. This new classification suggests that hair pulling disorder falls under the same spectrum, but is different to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The question then is whether OCD and trichotillomania co-occur and if so how common it is. One study that examined the comorbidity and family genetics of childhood trichotillomania, found that the subjects had substantial psychopathology and that a history of obsessive compulsive symptoms was common.
Trichotillomania, or hair pulling disorder, involves the obsessive compulsion to pull out ones hair. The focus area of hair pulling varies and can be anywhere on the body where there is hair. Pulling at the hair on the scalp is most common and often automatic. For some people hair pulling is just a bad habit which does not affect them negatively in any way. In this case the hair pulling is not considered a disorder. According to the DSM5, trichotillomania is most commonly characterized by:
More Exposure, More Awareness
Trichotillomania has gained increased awareness over the past few years, largely due to the use of blogging and social media by the younger generation who use it to speak openly about their experiences with the disorder. With access to information around the world via the web, and the social trend to share ourselves openly with the broader public, the new generation have embraced freedom of expression with both hands. More and more people are using blogging (short for weblog), a discussion or informational website, to express their views and opinions, and are finding willing audiences to listen. This can also take the form of video blogging (vlogging), whereby the person’s views are expressed on camera. Coupled with social media platforms, blogs can often go viral, meaning that the messages they convey are heard by a wide, often global audience.
This year, in the first week of October, the hair pulling community, along with the other body-focussed repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) such as skin picking disorder, observed BFRB awareness week. Many people with BFRBs are never diagnosed and never receive any help or support due to lack of awareness that these behaviours are classified as a disorder. Trichotillomania or hair pulling disorder can also be a source of great shame and embarrassment, so those who suffer with the condition often suffer in silence. So when a celebrity, who is admired for her beauty comes forward with the revelation that she too suffers the compulsion to pull her hair, it offers a sense of acknowledgement that trichotillomania can happen to anyone and that it is not something to be ashamed about.
Online Test for Trichotillomania
Find Out The Severity of Your Hair Pulling With This Free Online Test