Trichotillomania (trick-oh-till-oh-MAY-nee-uh) is a disorder categorized by the intentional pulling of body hair, most commonly the scalp. This disorder is widely underreported, but estimates place hair pulling disorder for 1%-2% of the population, or 1 in 50 people.
The purpose behind this disorder is commonly to provide relief for the person, as they feel relief after pulling the hair. Eyelashes, eyebrows, body hair, and beard hair are also common places for “pulling”.
There are varying degrees to trichotillomania, while some may view their disorder as a mild frustration, some individuals find it unbearable to manage. Those who suffer to an extreme degree may avoid social settings, family gatherings, or a workplace. For those who commonly pull from their scalp they will often part their hair a certain way, wear hats or coverings, or wear extensions to hide bare patches.
As hair pulling disorder is commonly unreported many people may not even know they have this disorder. Individuals may not even realize they are pulling their hair, or see it as a normal “quirk” they have. In extreme cases, some sufferers pull and consume the hair, resulting in a trichobezoar, or “hairball” in their stomach, which has resulted in fatalities in some cases.
Tricotillomania was once thought to be an anxiety disorder, but conducted research shows this disorder to be a complex combination of genetics, neuroanatomy, hormones, and environmental cues. While some do pull their hair to deal with anxiety or stress, many pull their hair unconsciously while bored, frustrated, or sad. Coping mechanisms typically happen when the person is anxious, but hair pulling can happen at any time for many people even if they are not anxious. Researchers now consider trichotillomania as a body focused repetitive behavior problem, such as nail biting.
As with any disorder resulting in physical anomalies, people with hair pulling disorder have options to disguise bald patches. For those who pull eyelashes or eyebrow hair, eye makeup and brow pencils can be used. Those who pull body hair can easily disguise patches with clothing, and scalp pullers can use hats or hair extensions.
At Mulberry we encounter many reasons our clients purchase hair extensions. Some of our most common reason we hear during consultations are:
- Confidence + Self Esteem
- Special Occasions + Weddings
- Photography + Modeling
- Chemo or Medication side effects
Our Stylists have heard every reason under the sun to purchase hair extensions, and we want every client to feel accepted no matter the reason they desire new hair. Our hope is to remove the stigma behind trichotillomania, and shed light onto an understood disorder.
If you’re reading this and think “hey this is me!”, we’re so happy you found this article. If you or someone you know manages hair pulling disorder there are some great resources out there. The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors is a fantastic place to start. They focus not just on Trichotillomania but also common repetitive behaviors, and have online support groups to join. https://www.bfrb.org/learn-about-bfrbs/treatment .
Common tabloid article headings are “Celebrities, they’re just like us!” with a photo of them taking the garbage out. But this relates to even deep issues, such as mental health and anxiety disorders. Some celebrities are vocal about their hair pulling disorder such as Olivia Munn and Colin Farrell, while others choose to keep it more private. While not every celeb labels their disorder, some have vocalized their struggle with hair pulling such as Charlize Theron, Katy Perry, Kate Beckinsale, Victoria Beckham, and Justin Timberlake.
If you live with trichotillomania, always remember you are not alone, it’s important to find support and treatment to help you manage this disorder. Check out local support groups, or even online forums.
You’ve got this.