Sumita was surprised to see a big patch of thin hair on her teenage son’s head while oiling his scalp. It was during the lockdown when everything had slowed down, her son who was preparing for the IIT exams had finally agreed to get a head massage from her. On enquiring about the patch, her son disclosed about his habit of pulling his hair while being engrossed in his studies. He also added that he was not aware that he had pulled out so many of his hair.
This habit of pulling one’s hair on his/her own is called Trichotillomania or Hair Pulling Disorder. It is classified as a type of mental disorder, which is often triggered by events, such as stress, nervousness, anxiety, or boredom.
The affected people not just pull hair from their scalp but also other body parts, such as eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, and body hair. For some, this is a conscious act, while, for others, it happens subconsciously. Sometimes, the people may even pluck the hair and chew it. This condition is known as Trichophagia. If this continues for a long time, it could lead to the formation of a ball of hair in the stomach as hair does not get digested by the stomach acid.
Why Do Some People Have a Habit of Pulling Their Hair?
The habit of pulling one’s hair usually starts in puberty, and the reason attributed is the changes in the hormonal levels as the child attains puberty and may remain lifelong or on and off. Females are more likely to get affected than males.
A family history of Trichotillomania can be another prominent cause of the disorder.
The habit of pulling one’s hair develops as a response to stress, anxiety, pressure, or boredom. As the anxiety or pressure levels rise, the person gets a resistible urge to pull the hair and he cannot resist this urge. This urge is very similar to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where the person repeatedly washes his hands or checks the door locks.
Once the person pulls the hair, he gets a sense of ease in his pressure or anxiety, a feeling of satisfaction. This makes him pull the hair again when he/she experiences a similar situation and the cycle continues.
It is however not known what makes these people reach out for their hair only. Often, these people also have a habit of nail-biting.
Symptoms of Hair Pulling Disorder:
Here are some common symptoms of hair-pulling disorder.
- The people reach out to their hair consciously or subconsciously while in stress, engrossed in deep thoughts, or during anxiety.
- They will play with hair, twirl the hair, and, finally, end up pulling it. They would not pull the hair in public. One can only make out if a close watch is kept on these patients.
- They also report a sense of ease of tension or feeling of satisfaction with hair pulling.
- There is thinning of hair on certain areas of the head, face, or body. There could also be an irregular bald patch with side predominance. A right-handed person will have a patch on the right side and vice versa. The length of hair in the patch would vary.
- Sometimes, people are aware of this behavior and also report their unsuccessful efforts to control themselves.
- They may have symptoms of anxiety and frustration due to their inability to control themselves.
- They may report going through stressful situations, such as exams stress, bully, family issues, office stress, etc.
- These people would not openly discuss their condition or seek treatment. They may feel embarrassed due to their habit and bald patches. So, they would avoid socializing and being in situations where the patches would be visible to the others or would adapt such behavior that will help them hide their patches, for instance, insisting on wearing a cap all the time.
- They may also have other body damaging habits, such as nail-biting, eating the hair, etc.
Diagnosis for Hair Pulling Disorder:
The doctor will take a detailed history of the patient, examine the bald patches, and try to differentiate it from other patchy hair loss conditions.
How Can One Manage Trichotillomania?
Here are some helpful tips to manage hair pulling disorder.
- Learn to be mindful of your actions.
- Identify the emotions that cause the urge to pull the hair and work over it.
- Plan a distraction strategy for yourself when you get the urge to pull the hair. It could be using a stress ball or deep breathing with loud affirmations for self.
- Wear a scarf, cap, or bandanna to prevent the hair from pulling
- Discuss your feelings with your family members so that you feel relaxed.
Treatment for Hair Pulling Disorder:
The treatment for hair pulling disorder consists of identifying the underlying causative factors and emotions that trigger the hair pulling and correct them through behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and counseling. Medicines to relieve stress and anxiety are given.
Complications Due to Hair Pulling Disorder:
Here are some complications that result due to hair-pulling disorder.
- Repeated hair pulling could cause permanent damage to the hair roots causing permanent baldness.
- The person may go into social withdrawal and depression due to the inability to control the condition and concern over one’s appearance.
- Some people have a habit of chewing the broken hair which can cause a ball of hair in the stomach. This would cause discomforting symptoms, such as pain and vomiting. It can also lead to intestinal obstruction, which is a medical emergency and needs surgery.
What Does Homeopathy Have To Offer?
Homeopathy comes to the rescue of the people suffering from trichotillomania. The medicines are selected based on a detailed case study, which also includes the mental and emotional aspects of the patient’s personality besides the physical symptoms of trichotillomania. Here, the homeopaths view the patient as a whole who is suffering from a disturbance in his well-being rather than just the affected scalp. The medicines thus selected help in improving the body’s response to stress which, in turn, helps in controlling the urge to pull out one’s hair.
The treatment with homeopathic medicines is safe, non-habit-forming, and provides long-lasting relief. Since it addresses the root cause of the problem, the treatment also reduces the chances of recurrence of the condition.
Severe cases of trichotillomania might need counseling and behavior therapy, in addition to homeopathic medicines.
This article gives a brief idea about trichotillomania. Think of Homeopathy in case you are looking for a safe solution for the Trichotillomania for self or your loved ones.
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