NOV 03, 2017 3:10 PM PDT

The Disorder that Makes People Pull Their Hair Out

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

There are many things that frustrate us to the point of wanting to pull our hair out, in the figurative sense. But for people with trichotillomania (TTM), hair pulling a literal way to cope.

Also known as hair pulling disorder, TTM is characterized by the urge to pull out one's hair. While the hair removal can occur anywhere on the body, hair on the head and around the eyes are most prone to being plucked away. In severe cases, people are left with noticeable bald patches on their scalp. People afflicted with TTM report a feeling of pleasure, relief, or gratification after they pull out the hair.

Although the cause of TTM is not known, there may be a genetic component, as in some cases, the disorder can run in families. Notably, TTM is often accompanied by other psychological conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, nail biting, skin picking, tic disorders, and eating disorders.

The conventional treatment for TTM is cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at reversing the hair pulling "habit." Medications can also supplement the behavioral therapy, reducing the urge to pull hair by reducing anxiety or depression triggers.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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