Causes Of Trichotillomania
Published on July 30th, 2019
Updated on March 12th, 2022
Trichotillomania is a term used to refer to people who pull out their hair. A person with this disorder will compulsively pull out their body hair. Because affected people struggle to stop the behavior, it is considered an impulse control disorder.
The hair-pulling behavior includes pulling hair out of one’s own body. Many affected people will also survey what they pulled out. The behavior may include pulling hair from the affected person’s head, face, body, or even eyelashes.
People with trichotillomania pull out their hair as a method to cope with stress. The sensation of pulling out their hair brings them temporary relief from stress. Even though it relieves temporary feelings of stress, in the long term it creates prolonged stress and anxiety. This is because the consequences of the disorder impact the affected person’s self-image and confidence.
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Pulling out body hair is an unhealthy coping strategy. It takes a toll on an affected person’s overall quality of life. It negatively impacts different areas of life, including mental health and self-esteem. It also holds an affected person back from developing healthy coping strategies.
Symptoms of Trichotillomania
Trichotillomania causes many uncomfortable signs and symptoms. The signs are also unsightly, so it is not uncommon for affected people to try to cover up the damage done to their bodies. Not only will their behavior become evident in their looks, but it will also affect how they feel.
Trichotillomania creates many different kinds of symptoms. These symptoms can be difficult for affected people to understand. This is because they pull their hair out in an attempt to feel better.
The difficulty in recognizing their behavior can prevent people with trichotillomania from seeing the long-term damage they are doing to their bodies and minds. Even when the affected person does recognize the behavior, it can be difficult for them to stop.
People with trichotillomania will suffer from physical symptoms. These symptoms are painful and unsightly. They affect an affected person’s self-esteem, self-image, and confidence. It can also affect a person’s relationships, as people may begin to notice or point out the physical signs of the hair-pulling. This in turn can create feelings of embarrassment and shame, which cause affected people to pull away from friends and loved ones.
Physical symptoms of trichotillomania include:
- Bald spots
They will also suffer from emotional and mental symptoms. These symptoms can be more difficult to identify, as only the affected person can feel the emotions and live with the upsetting thoughts.
Family members and peers can struggle to recognize and understand the warning signs of trichotillomania. Affected people can also fail to recognize or accept their symptoms.
For affected people, it can be hard to make the connection between their hair-pulling behavior and the affecting symptoms. Many affected people understand it is not healthy, but do not make the connection between the behavior and their stress and mental health.
Such emotional and mental symptoms of trichotillomania include:
- Difficulty dealing with stress
- Obsessive thoughts
- Compulsive behaviors
- Emotional distress
- Panic attacks
People with trichotillomania struggle to cope with stress. They also struggle with resisting impulsive behaviors.
Affected people tend to have difficulty coping with anxiety. Some may even suffer from a depressed mood.
While there is not a single known cause of trichotillomania, there are factors that may contribute to the onset of the disorder.
Such factors that contribute to the onset of trichotillomania include:
Poor Stress Management Skills
People with trichotillomania tend to have poor stress management skills. They struggle with being under pressure. To cope with the struggle, they cope by pulling out their hair.
Pulling out their hair causes affected people to feel temporary relief. The sight of how much hair they pulled out creates a feeling of relief. The feeling of relief is there, even though they are damaging their body. A problem with the behavior is that the relief is temporary, and the consequences of pulling out their hair cause even more stress. This, in turn, worsens the condition.
Co-occurring mental health disorders
There are co-occurring conditions that people tend to suffer from along with trichotillomania. A co-occurring disorder is a disorder that occurs at the same time as another disorder.
Each of the co-occurring disorders tends to be related. They tend to affect each other and are often similar in severity.
Mental health disorders that may occur with trichotillomania include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Hoarding disorder
- Body dysmorphia
- Alcohol addiction
- Anger management issues
Family history of mental illness
Mental illness often runs in families. People with trichotillomania may have family members who also suffer from mental health conditions. The condition does not have to be trichotillomania. A family history of any mood, anxiety, or impulse disorder increases the risk of trichotillomania.
Sometimes it is part of a person’s genetic makeup to develop a mental health disorder like trichotillomania. Other times the condition may develop as a result of living with a person who suffers from mental illness.
The following conditions can run in families:
- Anger management issues
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Intermittent explosive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Impulse control issues
Each of these conditions may contribute to a family member developing the trichotillomania.
Poor access to mental health services
Many people tug at their hair in frustration but grow out of the habit. It becomes a mental health issue when the behavior worsens, rather than subsiding.
A major factor that can cause trichotillomania is a lack of mental health resources. People may show signs of trichotillomania as early as elementary school. Children who pull at their hair in frustration show warning signs of developing the disorder. Without proper education about the signs of the condition, it can be overlooked by:
- Guidance counselors
- School aids
- Family members
Poor access to mental health services prevents people from knowing the warning signs. Not knowing the warning signs causes the condition to worsen. Eventually, the behavior has the potential to develop into trichotillomania.