Hair loss and balding can be caused by a long list of things. From genetics to medications to illness to stress, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly why your hair is falling out. However, for those with trichotillomania, the cause is a bit easier to pinpoint.
What is trichotillomania?
Though conditions like male or female pattern baldness are extremely well known and well understood, there are other conditions that cause hair to fall out for different reasons, and trichotillomania is one of these.
Trichotillomania, also called hair pulling disorder, TTM, or trich, is a condition that is characterized by the pulling out of one’s own hair in a repetitive motion. TTM falls under the umbrella of body-focused repetitive behaviors, or behaviors relating to self-grooming practices that end up damaging the body due to excessive repetition. Aside from hair pulling, other body-focused repetitive behaviors include pulling, picking, biting, or scraping at their skin, hair, or nails.
Though it’s likely that you’ve never heard of trichotillomania before, the condition is more common than you might think. Research shows that between 1 and 2 of every 50 people experience TTM at some point in their lifetime, usually beginning during early puberty. Forbes young adolescents, trichotillomania tends to affect boys and girls equally; however, the percentage of TTM patients that continue to suffer from the condition into adulthood is overwhelmingly made up of women.
What are the symptoms?
Trichotillomania cases vary greatly from person to person. Some patients are pulling at their hair nearly all day, while others only feel the compulsion to do so on a rare occasion. Additionally, some patients only feel the urge to pull at the hair on their head, while others gravitate toward other body hair such as eyelashes, eyebrows, or body hair.
Some of the most common symptoms of trichotillomania include:
- Repeated hair pulling that causes hair loss
- Numerous failed attempts to stop the behavior or decrease its frequency
- No other skin-related conditions such as dandruff or itchy scalp
- Impairment or distress in social, work-related, or other situations
Currently, TTM is classified as an obsessive-compulsive or related disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, also known as the DSM-5. This is the most widely accepted publication regarding current mental health knowledge. For some with TTM, the act of hair pulling relieves stress or even triggers positive, happy feelings. For others, the condition is more automatic and the patient goes through the motion of pulling their hair without even realizing it.
Because the severity of trichotillomania can vary so greatly from patient to patient, it can affect people’s lives at different levels. For those with very mild cases, TTM is little more than an annoyance, but those with extreme cases of trichotillomania can experience debilitating social anxiety and feel incredibly isolated from their friends and family. In fact, most patients with extreme TTM are at risk of co-occurring psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and mood disorders due to the emotional effects of their condition.
What can I do about it?
Since trichotillomania is a purely mental disorder, it is best treated through therapy. A trained therapist or psychiatrist can guide you through the process of habit reversal or, if needed, prescribe SSRIs or antidepressants to treat the mood-altering effects of the condition.
Due to its nature, TTM can cause unusual levels of hair loss, resulting in an overall thinned-out appearance or even bald spots. Dealing with the aesthetic repercussions of TTM can be just as stressful as the mental and emotional repercussions, which is why many patients seek treatment for hair loss in addition to treatment for TTM.
People experiencing hair loss for all kinds of reasons turn to laser caps for hair growth. These caps are specially designed using state-of-the-art low-level light therapy to rejuvenate the hair follicles and scalp, preventing hair loss and supporting new hair growth simultaneously. At just 30 minutes of use every other day required to see results, laser hair caps are an incredibly convenient option for hair growth.
Additionally, DHT blocking products such as vitamins and shampoos are made with all-natural ingredients to prevent hair loss by inhibiting the body’s creation of DHT, a testosterone-related hormone that is closely linked to hair loss. While preventing hair loss, these products can also make your hair healthy, strong, and soft to the touch. Plus, adding in extras like biotin gummies can also help to supplement your nutrition, making sure that you’re receiving all of the healthy hair-supporting nutrients that you need in your daily intake.