Trichotillomania Hypnotherapy, This rather frightening sounding term is the name for a problem that very few people are aware of. Yet trichotillomania sufferers are actually very common. It is likely that members of your own family are in the early stages of this compulsive disorder. Its early signs appear quite harmless. So what is this behaviour that can pass relatively undetected and unnoticed in its early stages yet is impossible to ignore once it is in full swing? 

  The  Trichotillomania sufferer feels a need to pull at and usually pull out, strands of their hair. In prolonged cases, this can be so severe that the hair loss becomes noticeable and bald patches begin to appear. This condition is not as uncommon as one might think and as far back as 1978 research found that this affected as many as 8 million people.

What are the causes of Trichotillomania?

Some Psychologists believe that trichotillomania is an obsessive-compulsive disorder and as such is a form of ‘stress anxiety’ illness. Others believe that it is a behavioural disorder . Whilst still others believe it is that the root of this pernicious activity, may begin as a form of self-grooming.

Feelings of stress

Most Psychologists link this disorder with anxiety and stress. While it may be that high-stress levels exacerbate the disorder this may not be the root cause. It is interesting to note that in our everyday language we often say things such as I was so angry/worried/frustrated I was “pulling my hair out!” its almost as if this was a normal reaction to stressful life situations. For many people, it is more than a metaphor.

Diet

Many sufferers report that changes to diet can make the impulse to pull hair seem stronger, especially bouts of ‘junk food’ consumption. A small number of Psychological researchers are looking into this possibility,but this research is far from conclusive. More likely A poor diet simply increases the perceived level of stress.

Comforting

Many sufferers report that they get a certain feeling of comfort and even pleasure and relief from pulling hair from their scalp. As such this has some similarity with the pleasure response of the masochist. The patient has become classically conditioned to experience pleasure from pain. Perhaps more accurately the trichotillomania sufferer seeks a feeling of deferred relief, exchanging the sense of pain/relief obtained from uprooting hair for the scratching/relief of a more concealed psychological itch.

It seems likely that the causes of this disorder will be a mixture of some or all of these theories.

Signs and Symptoms

The beginnings of trichotillomania are innocent enough. The sufferer usually begins the habit by playing with or ‘toying’ with their hair. This usually seems to occur when distracted (watching television or reading for example) or perhaps daydreaming. It’s almost as though the unconscious mind plays with or comforts itself while the conscious mind is otherwise absorbed. There is some evidence that this behaviour can be learned.

Hidden

Many sufferers say that they are unaware that they are pulling out their hair until the act is accomplished. It should also be mentioned that most do not actually mind the act of hair pulling and would find no problem with this activity if it did not lead to unsightly bald patches on the scalp.

In extreme cases, a situation can arise where the patient has become almost completely bald, save for the hairs that are fine and most painful to remove, such as at the nape of the neck.

More common in girls

The condition is more prevalent in young females. This may be explained by the fact that females traditionally wear their hair much longer than males and so it is more readily available to the fingers. Young females are perhaps more likely to strongly associate behavioural patterns with hair grooming as this is a more important part of parental contact to them. However, males do suffer from this disorder too.

Secretive

Once they are aware that they have formed an addiction to the act of pulling out hair, they might well begin to hide this practice. They might even take steps to hide or disguise the subsequent hair loss in various ways.  Parents should be watchful. I should also mention that while the focus of this problem is usually the scalp it can also generalise in time until the sufferer pulls hair from the eyebrows, eyelashes, nasal hair, arms, hands, armpits, chest, breasts, nipples, legs, pubic areas and so on.

Some sufferers actually consume the hair that they remove, which can form undigested masses of hair in the stomach and require hospital treatment.

Most conventional treatment for trichotillomania has been found largely ineffective. High doses of mood altering medication have been tried and so has various diets. Another common reaction is to attempt to control the problem by shaving the head of the patient but evidence shows that the problem remains and merely waits until the hair returns to reassert itself.

Treatment with Hypnotherapy

 The general consensus is that trichotillomania is a habitual/anxiety based disorder so a strategy utilising distraction and relaxation is possible.

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