Trichotillomania is technically defined as a self-induced and recurrent hair loss. In other words, it is a recurrent and irresistible habit or behavior aimed at tearing one’s own hair or hairs from different parts of the body.
It is classified as a pulse control disorder along with pyromania, pathological gambling and kleptomania. This is because the patient experiences a sensation of tension before pulling the hair and a feeling of gratitude or relief once they have done so.
The term trichotillomania was coined by a French dermatologist named François Henri Hallopeau. This disorder can occur in both children and adults. But the key age of onset is between 9 and 13 years . Its development may be influenced by depression or stress.
On the other hand, it has a pre-valence of 1% and, although it is supposed to be as common in men as in women, in clinical practice it is more important to care for women. This is because the latter seek more frequently treatment.
In addition, this disorder is often accompanied by other habits of repetitive movements in the body either pinching or eating the nails.
Causes of the development of trichotillomania
As we have seen, the most pre-valence age of this disorder is between 9 and 13 years old. However, there is no specific cause for trichotillomania. Some researchers think that it is possible that at a biological level there is a neurochemical imbalance in the brain.
The mismatch that may exist is mainly the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical produced by the human body that transmits signals between the nerves, that is, it functions as a neurotransmitter. It is considered by some researchers as the chemical responsible for keeping our mood in balance.
Apart from the neurochemical maladjustment. There may also be a combination of factors, such as:
- Genetics : some researchers think that they can be hereditary.
- Environmental : as tension or depression.
- Bacterial infection like streptococcus.
Therefore, the causes are multiple and depend on each person.
Trichotillomania is characterized by the presence of a series of symptoms. First, they tend to tear their hair recurrently causing a considerable loss of it. These people suffer an increase in the perception of tension just before pulling on their hair.
Once they pull their hair, they feel pleasure and gratification . In addition, this disorder can cause significant discomfort or deterioration social, work or other areas. On the other hand, they may suffer loss of self-esteem caused by the disorder.
These people do not usually pull their hair in front of more people. Unless they are members of the family to which they are very close. They also tend to avoid social relationships.
Another behavior that they usually adopt is that of denying their problem with relative frequency and, normally, they have ingenious resources to hide their alopecia. Finally, they may suffer from mood or anxiety disorders, among others.
How is trichotillomania treated?
Currently there are no known specific treatments for this disorder. In some cases, doctors decide to prescribe medications focused on reducing episodes of excessive anxiety or stress overload. Among these drugs we can mention clomipramide, which belongs to the group of tricyclic antidepressants.
However, the treatment of choice for tricolitomania is cognitive behavioral therapy . It is a psychological therapy that designs a treatment composed of different techniques that will teach the patient to become aware and control the disorder.
These techniques include the inversion of habit, since it is the main one in the treatment of tricolitomania. In addition to this method, relaxation techniques are often used to control stress, thinking stopping and cognitive restructuring.
On the other hand, it is beginning to be used as a coadjutant of the techniques that have been explained meshes that are placed in the hair to cover the area affected by the pulls. By covering the affected area, patients can not continue pulling hair. This system is known as capillary integration system.
Finally, before any indication of the appearance of this disorder. It is advisable to request medical or psychological help to find the treatment or the most appropriate therapies for the patient.