The Unstoppable Urge To Pull Hair And Relax: Trichotillomania

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Today's weird health issue is Trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder that causes patients go through hell both psychologically and physically. People with this disorder cannot resist pulling out their hair. But why? Here are more details about this bizarre disorder.

Trichotillomania is the habit of a person pulling out her hair.

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It is a repetitive impulse control disorder that gets chronical.

The term is composed of three different words; Greek word tricho meaning hair, tillo meaning pulling out and mania is the extreme desire.

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This term was coined by the French dermatologist Francois Hallopeau, in 1889.

Despite being named by a dermatologist, trichotillomania is not classified as a dermatological disease.

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It is categorized as an impulse control disorder, meaning that it is rather a psychological disorder than a physical disease. The patient has urges to perform unwanted behavior and lays similar to the obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Trichotillomania is not limited to pulling of the hair.

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Patients pull out their eyebrows, eyelashes, chest hair and hairs in other parts of the body.

This results in the loss of the hair types mentioned above.

Urges may occur at any time of the day.

Sounds painful, doesn't it? Patients claim the opposite: It is irresistible.

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People who have this disorder tell that pulling hair is rather relaxing than painful. If you are having a hard time understanding this sense, it is allegedly similar to the relief when you scratch a part in your body.

Are these people hurting themselves on purpose by pulling their hair?

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Actually no, because no patient is pleased with what they have, and wants to get rid of it.  They see that it makes their life miserable and unbearable but fail to stop.

Some patients indicate that they feel excruciating pain but still cannot keep away.

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The pain does not only occur at the moment of the hair pull, it also builds up in hands, wrists, and elbows as a result of repetitive movements during hair pulls, sometimes happening hundreds of times in a day. On the other hand, all this is still not enough for the patient to stop pulling.

An advanced version of this disorder is Trichotillobezoar.

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This has an additional step in which the patient eats the pulled hair. Patient might eat just the follicle or the whole hair.

This results in intestinal obstruction and requires immediate treatment or operation.

But why does this even happen?

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There is no absolute answer to this question, yet.

Further research will determine the changes in the patient's brain, causes of hair pulling, and what really aggravates the urge to act this way. Until now, researchers found this disorder to be neurobiological and dependent on genetics.

It is important to mention that trichotillomania is actually a symptom, some researchers claim.

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This means that it actually foreshadows another psychological disorder. The urges increase when the patient is under too much stress, and cool down when everything is going normal.

This disorder causes failure in social and professional life for the patient.

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The patient feels pressured when someone advises them they could stop all of this if they wanted to and that triggers the hair pulling process.

When does it occur?

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Trichotillomania can appear at any age including infancy. It usually occurs at ages 11-13 or during puberty which makes researchers think that it can be related to hormonal changes in the body. It generally shows up following a traumatic incident, but it may as well show up out of nothing.

What is the treatment?

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To be honest, it is impossible to foresee how the disorder is going to develop. If the patient does not get treatment, they will suffer for a long time. But this does not mean that it will not go away for short periods of time. Unfortunately, it bounces back and does not let you off the hook so easily. It may as well get chronic and stick to the patient forever.

Being aware of the disorder really helps, because it would motivate the patient to get treatment including drugs and pscyhotherapy.

Trichotillomania can be seen in people who belong to various age groups, ethnicities, nationalities and socioeconomic status.

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Research shows that this disorder affects 1% to 3% of the whole population whereas women constitutes 80%-90% of all adult cases.

Finally, the patient is lucky if they embrace the disorder and start getting a complete treatment consisting of drugs and psychotherapy. It is crucial to act as early as possible to fight this though problem, so do not get embarrassed and take the first step if you have the symptoms.

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