Hair Pulling (Trichotillomania)

The origin of the term Trichotillomania (TTM) is from Greek: Trich - hair Till - pull Mania - madness Trichotillomania

Hair Pulling (Trichotillomania) is a disorder characterized by pulling out hair out of the body. Most affected part of the body is the scalp (head), however any other places where hair grows are affected as well (pubic hair, nose hair, eyelashes etc). This is an impulse control disorder. This disorder is classified under same category as compulsive skin picking. Indeed, the two disorders are closely connected, since they resemble in that there is a repeating destructive urge present, which pushes the person towards a self harming activity, often in a compulsive manner (when one cannot control his/her own behavior).

Perhaps the mildest, or least self-destructive, avenue of release with this particular compulsion is the fixation on split ends of the hair shaft. Because women usually have hair long enough to examine the ends of it closely, it is mostly women who exhibit this habit. These ladies will examine, as if in a trance, the ends of their hair, searching for split ends. They may merely look incessantly from one hair strand to the next, appearing to be mesmerized as they explore their hair one single strand at a time. Related behaviors involve pulling the split ends apart, causing further damage to the hair shaft. This newly inflicted damage to the hair generates more split ends and, therefore, perpetuates the cycle.

On a more painful and destructive level, some people pull the hair, often to the point of creating noticeable bald spots. The hair pulling may be done in a state of agitation and serve as a means of releasing stress or quelling anxieties but other people pull the hair, even to the point of pain and baldness, while in a state of relaxation and the activity is hardly even noticed by the subject. As with skin picking, hair pulling is sometimes done as a means of self-inflicted punishment or as a method of causing the sensation of pain. The rationale behind the need to cause pain is that life has become so dull and uneventful that the pain is welcomed as a sign of actual engagement in the process of living. Another response to the need to inflict pain is the distorted sense of relief that is realized when the pain (the pulling or picking) stops. When this pain-inflicting behavior becomes a routine part of life, the relief from pain is felt only momentarily, at best.

While the majority of people who suffer from trichotillomania focus on the hair of their heads, the behaviors are by no means limited to just that area. The eyelashes, and eyebrows to a lesser degree, are also the focus of some picking behaviors. Hair on other parts of the body are targeted by still other people experiencing these behaviors.

Here is a useful trichotillomania website where you can find more info. Back to glossary

Online Test For Skin Picking Disorder

Find Out The Severity of Your Symptoms With This Free Online Diagnostic Tool