Trichotillomania is a hair-pulling disorder that typically begins between the ages of 9 and 13, and peaks between 12 and 13. Some 2 percent of adolescents, more often females, suffer from trichotillomania and the accompanying hair-pulling anxiety.
Trichotillomania is a body-focused, repetitive behavior classified as an impulse control disorder. It is characterized by pulling hair out, and recurrent anxiety and tension leading up to the hair-pulling behavior. A stressful event, such as abuse or family conflict, can trigger trichotillomania. During the hair pulling, the person tends to experience pleasure and relief. Thus, they are unable to resist the hair-pulling urge.
If a chronic hair-pulling disorder is not treated, periodic relapses most likely will occur throughout a person’s life. Thus, the behavior may come and go for weeks, months, or even years at a time. Additionally, the most common sites of hair pulling are the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelids.
Effective treatments for trichotillomania include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involving habit reversal training. Given the extremity of the anxiety that leads to pulling hair out, inpatient treatment is often warranted.