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Trichotillomania

People who suffer from trichotillomania feel a compulsion to pull out their own hair. The most common spots for pulling hair out are the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes.

Signs of trichotillomania include the following:

  • Hair loss
  • An increasing sense of tension that is relieved by hair pulling or automatic pulling

Other self-injuring behaviors such as skin picking, nail biting or cheek chewing may accompany trichotillomania.

Trichotillomania: what you should know

  • Trichotillomania usually occurs around the onset of puberty but can begin earlier or later.
  • People suffering from trichotillomania often also suffer from depression or sadness, anxiety or a poor self-image.
  • Some people with trichotillomania have a compulsion to eat the hair that they pull out, which can cause serious complications such as bowel obstructions.
  • People who feel ashamed of their trichotillomania can suffer from significant psychological distress that interferes with relationships and results in social isolation.

How can I get help for trichotillomania?

If left untreated, trichotillomania can cause irreversible damage to hair quality and hair growth. So talk to your primary care physician if you have symptoms. The doctor may examine your skin, hair and scalp and refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. 

Care for trichotillomania at Rush

Specialists in the Cognitive Therapy Center of the Department of Psychiatry at Rush will work with you to create a customized treatment plan. Your plan may include the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy:
    • Habit reversal training, which helps you focus on the circumstances when you pull your hair and substitute another competing behavior
    • Comprehensive behavioral (ComB) model, which uses some techniques from habit reversal training and adds other techniques, including observing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors before, during and after hair pulling
  • Medications that have been successful in treating trichotillomania:
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • Clomipramine
    • Naltrexone
    • N-acetylcysteine

Why choose Rush for trichotillomania care

  • The Cognitive Therapy Center team includes an expert in child and adolescent psychiatry who specializes in helping kids overcome trichotillomania.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other therapies offered at Rush are evidence-based treatments, which means that their effectiveness is supported by the results of scientific research.

Departments and programs that treat this condition