Causes Of Trichotillomania

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Causes Of Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a term used to refer to people who pull out their own hair. A person with this disorder will compulsively pull out their own body hair. Because affected people struggle to stop the behavior, it is considered an impulse control disorder.

The hair pulling behavior includes pulling hair out of one’s own body and surveying what they pulled out. The behavior may include pulling hair from the affected person’s head, face, body or even their eyelashes.

People with trichotillomania pull out their hair to cope with stress. The sensation of pulling out their own hair brings them temporary relief. It also creates long-term stress and anxiety. This is because the consequences of the disorder impact the affected person’s self-image and confidence.

Pulling out body hair is an unhealthy coping strategy that takes a toll on an affected person’s overall quality of life.

Symptoms of Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania causes many uncomfortable signs and symptoms. Not only will their behavior become evident in their looks, but it will also affect how they feel.

Trichotillomania creates many different kinds of symptoms. These symptoms can be difficult to for affected people to understand. This is because they pull their hair out in an attempt to feel better.

The difficulty recognizing their behavior can prevent them from seeing the long term damage they are doing to their bodies and minds. Even if the affected person does recognize the behavior, it can be difficult for them to stop.

People with trichotillomania will suffer from physical symptoms. These symptoms are painful and unsightly. They affect an affected person’s self-esteem, self-image and confidence.

Physical symptoms of trichotillomania include:

  • Sores
  • Cuts
  • Abrasions
  • Bruises
  • Bald spots

They will also suffer from emotional and mental symptoms. These symptoms can be more difficult to identify.

Family members and peers can struggle to recognize and understand the warning signs. Affected people can also fail to recognize or accept the symptoms within themselves.

For affected people, it can be hard to make the connection between their hair pulling behavior and the affecting symptoms.

Such emotional and mental symptoms of trichotillomania include:

People with trichotillomania struggle to cope with stress. They also struggle with resisting impulsive behaviors.

Affected people tend to struggle with anxiety. Some may even suffer from a depressed mood.

While there is not a single known cause of trichotillomania, there are factors that may contribute to the onset of the disorder.

Such factors that contribute to the onset of trichotillomania include:

Poor Stress Management Skills

People with trichotillomania tend to have poor stress management skills. They struggle with being under pressure, and to cope they pull out their hair.

Pulling out their hair causes affected people to feel temporary relief. The sight of how much hair they pulled out creates a feeling of relief, even though they are damaging their body. The problem is that the relief is temporary, and the consequences of pulling out their hair cause even more stress. This in turn, worsens the condition.

Co-occurring mental health disorders

There are co-occurring conditions that people tend to suffer from along with trichotillomania. A co-occurring disorder is a disorder that occurs at the same time of another disorder.

Each of the co-occurring disorders tends to be related. They tend to affect each other and are often similar in severity.

Mental health disorders that may occur with trichotillomania include:

Family history of mental illness

Mental illness often runs in families. People with trichotillomania often have family members who also suffer from mental illness.

Sometimes it is part of the genes to develop a mental health disorder like trichotillomania. Sometimes the condition may develop as a result of living with a person who suffers from mental illness.

The following conditions can run in families:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger management issues
  • Trichotillomania
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Impulse control issues

Each of these conditions may contribute to a family member developing the disorder.

Poor access to mental health services

Many people tug at their hair in frustration, and eventually grow out of the habit. It becomes a mental health issue when the behavior worsens, rather than subsiding.

A major factor that can cause trichotillomania is a lack of mental health resources. People may show signs of trichotillomania as early as elementary school. Children who pull at their hair in frustration show warning signs of developing the disorder. Without proper education about the signs of the condition, it can be overlooked by:

  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Guidance counselors
  • School aids
  • Peers
  • Family members

Poor access to mental health services prevents people from knowing the warning signs. Not knowing the warning signs causes the condition to worsen. Eventually, the behavior has the potential to develop into trichotillomania.


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