Trichotillomania, what do you do when you pull your hair?

Some people pull their hair compulsively, small tufts of various areas of the body, from the head, arms, legs, to the eyebrows, eyelashes ... Although it may seem something unusual, the tricoltilmania It is more common than we think, a little known disorder that causes misunderstanding and shame, and can have serious consequences for people who suffer from it.

It is usual to touch your hair and play with some strands. It is something that many times we do without realizing it, as an unconscious way of having our hands busy and calming our nerves. In some cases, these games with strands of hair, give rise to small pulls that tear the hair.


The trichotillomania it's the mania of tear off tufts of hair from any part of the body, from the head, arms, legs, to the eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits and even pubic hair. The mania is accompanied by a feeling of relief just after tearing the lock, and occurs compulsively without the person suffering from it can avoid it.

Trichotillomania as a disorder

The trichotillomania is an alteration collected in the DSM V (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders), framed in the group of obsessive compulsive disorders and other related disorders. In previous versions of this manual, trichotillomania has been classified as a pulse control disorder.


As a disorder of the group of obsessive-compulsive disorders, we can understand the act of plucking hair as a compulsion that can not be avoided and that produces some relief. As a pulse control disorder, it is understood as a difficult impulse to control that causes well-being and serves to relieve tension. In any case, we talk about similar conditions. Frame the trichotillomancy within a group has not been an easy task, since it is usually accompanied by other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.

Criteria for the diagnosis of trichotillomania

The DSM V, in its latest version, recognizes the following diagnostic criteria for hair pulling or trichotillomania:

A. Hair pulling recurrently, which leads to its loss in a perceptible way.
B. Repeated attempts to decrease or stop tearing the hair.
C. Plucking hair causes discomfort
clinically significant or deterioration in social, labor or other important areas of functioning.
D. The fact of plucking the hair is not explained better for the symptoms of another mental disorder.


Symptoms and signs of trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a silent disease and sometimes the symptoms are not appreciated until the mania of tearing the hair is very advanced and the loss of hair is noticeable, and plaques may appear. Let's see the symptoms in detail:

1. The main symptom is tearing the hair. Normally they do it secretly, when nobody sees them and for that reason in many occasions we do not realize until it is appreciable.
2. Appearance of plaques and loss of hair volume.
3. Usually accompanied by high anxiety or stress
4. They are people who have trouble recognizing their problem, in most of the occasions they are ashamed of it, but they can not avoid it.
5. Before tearing the hair, some type of discomfort usually appears, stress, anxiety, and the act of plucking the hair, is a relief. Then there is the feeling of guilt, shame and discomfort.
6. The act of plucking the hair is not a deliberate or intentional act, It is an involuntary impulse.

When and how do they start to tear their hair

Trichotillomania is a disorder that usually originates in childhood and / or adolescence and, if not treated properly, lasts until adulthood. In most cases they do not know how they started to do it, they also can not say why they do it exactly, but when they start it ends up becoming a habit that is difficult to avoid.

Stress situations are usually those that provoke the act of tearing the hair. It is common for many boys and girls to start pulling their hair out when they study, as a way to keep their hands busy, to release their tension. The act of pulling their hair causes them a relief that helps them with their stress levels. But this help is a trap, since welfare is momentary and not real.

Consequences of trichotillomania

Although trichotillomania is not a serious disease in terms of physical deterioration of health, since apart from hair loss does not imply other deterioration of physical health, emotional and psychic has important and serious repercussions.

- The appearance of bald spots is something that is appreciated and not understood, therefore it can generate guilt and frustration difficult to handle.
- It is usually hidden and therefore these emotions are kept silent, can lead to more serious alterations such as depression.
- The self-esteem of the people who suffer it diminishes.
- Social relations are impaired.
- Academic functioning and in other areas is also affected.

What can we do when a child tears his hair? 6 tips

1. First of all, keep calm, Remember that it is not a serious illness, that it has treatment and that they can not avoid it.
2. Take care of the child's emotions. He can not help tearing his hair off, and he may not understand why he does it, and feel guilty. Therefore avoid scolding or criticizing him for his problem.
3. Give your support, Explain what trichotillomania is and help him understand it.
4. Show him alternative behaviors when he is nervous, look for an alternative in which you have to use your hands, in this way you will have them occupied (play with a pencil in your hand, anti-stress balls, etc.).
5. Teach relaxation techniques.
6. Go to a specialist.

Celia Rodríguez Ruiz. Clinical health psychologist (collegiate number M-27405), specialist in pedagogy and child and youth psychology. Director of Educa and Learn. Author of the collection Stimulate Reading and Writing Processes.

Video: How to Stop Pulling Your Hair Out (Trichotillomania)


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