Hair pulling from the scalp often leaves patchy bald spots, which causes significant distress and can interfere with social or work functioning. People with trichotillomania may go to great lengths to disguise the loss of hair. For some people, trichotillomania may be mild and generally manageable. For others, the compulsive urge to pull hair is overwhelming.
Trichotillomania is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM5) as a Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviour (BFRB), within the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Spectrum. This suggests that while the behaviours of compulsive hair pulling are related to OCD, it is not an OCD in itself, but is better defined with similar conditions in its own category. BFRBs are characterized by repetitive, direct body-to-body contact, which unintentionally causes physical harm to the body. While the urge to engage in these behaviours are defined as compulsions, some have described the inability to stop picking and the irresistable nature of the urge to be similar to addiction. An estimated 25% of people suffering from a BFRB are also addicts.
Last month we shared a video about a technology product called Slightly Robot, a device that tracks your hands and vibrates each time you do certain movements. We think this is a great device for developing awareness, an important aspect of Habit Awareness Training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The founders and creators of Slightly robot, Matthew and Joseph Toles graciously took the time to answer some of our questions about Slightly Robot. This is what they had to say:
There are different levels of severity of trichotillomania, but for many, shame and embarrassment about hair pulling causes painful isolation and results in a great deal of emotional distress, placing them at risk for a co-occurring psychiatric disorders, such as a mood or anxiety disorder. Hair pulling can lead to great tension and strained relationships with family members and friends. Understanding how trichotillomania may affect the different aspects of your life may encourage you to get the help you need and deserve.
Physical Effects of Hair Pulling
The act of pulling hair can be damaging and risky to the body, especially over long periods of time. Over time, the negative physical attributes associated with hair pulling can present themselves in the following manifestations:
Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder that is characterized by an urge to pull out one’s own hair, commonly from the scalp, face, and pubic areas, resulting in noticeable bare spots. Trichotillomania is also defined as a self-induced and on-going hair loss and is referred to informally as hair-pulling disorder. Individuals who develop trichotillomania typically engage in these behaviours in order to release tension, achieve a sense of relief, or generate gratification. Though trichotillomania is a mental health disorder with physical ramifications, it can result in consequences that affect every aspect of your well-being. No matter the length of time one might be suffering with trichotillomania, the effects can be debilitating if not treated or addressed professionally. Understanding how trichotillomania may affect the different aspects of your life may encourage you to get the help you need and deserve.
What Are The Various BFRBs?
Trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling)
Trichotillomania is one of the main BFRBs and the criteria for diagnosis are as follows:
- Recurrent pulling out of one’s hair, resulting in hair loss
- Repeated attempts to decrease or stop the hair-pulling behaviour
- The hair pulling causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
- The hair pulling or hair loss cannot be attributed to another medical condition (eg, a dermatologic condition)
- The hair pulling cannot be better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder (eg, attempts to improve a perceived defect or flaw in appearance, such as may be observed in body dysmorphic disorder)
Excoriation disorder (compulsive skin picking)
We are all familiar with the main symptoms of depression: sadness, lethargy, changes in appetite, feelings of hopelessness and failure, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts or feelings. These are all very serious, and hard enough to handle in their own. But what happens when depression moves from the internal to the external? The physical symptoms of depression can be just as distressing as the mental ones: cutting, burning, and other forms of self-harm are common among people struggling with depression, but there are lesser-known conditions that can be triggered by depression. One of the least understood, and often un-diagnosed of these is trichotillomania.
Online Test for Trichotillomania
Find Out The Severity of Your Hair Pulling With This Free Online Test