Trichotillomania - Causes of Male Hair Loss

This difficult to pronounce condition is a psychological disorder which causes hair loss amongst other things. It is a compulsion in which the sufferer gets the urge to pull out their hair by its roots. And it’s not just confined to the scalp: sufferers will often pull out hair from their eyelashes, eyebrows and groin area.

Many people who suffer from this condition will also have other disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), nail biting or picking their skin.

You may assume that it is easy to stop this habit but it is in fact an anxiety disorder which compels people to pull out their hair, even though they don’t want to.

Who is affected?

It tends to affect young people, in particular teenagers although older people can be affected. It accounts for around 2% of the UK population.

Causes of trichotillomania

No-one is exactly sure what causes it but experts have put forward a few theories as to how it develops. These include:

  • Genetic: some people are more disposed than others to stress and anxiety which can manifest itself in pulling out their hair.
  • Chemicals: these are transmitted between nerve endings in the brain but if they are disrupted then it can lead to this type of compulsion.
  • Life event: a traumatic life event such as bereavement, divorce or abuse can trigger this condition.
  • Hormonal: it can be triggered as a result of the hormonal changes during puberty.

Whatever the causes, sufferers find that they experience a feeling of pleasure or relief from pulling their hair. Some people are fully aware when they do this but others are in a trance at that time.

But, these feelings of relief or satisfaction are quickly replaced by ones of frustration, anxiety or embarrassment which results in the behaviour being repeated again and again. And this compulsive behaviour can lead to depression.

Hair is not only pulled: it is often stroked, chewed, played with or licked. It may be tugged or pulled out from the scalp. If hair is pulled over a long period of time then it can lead to bald patches on the scalp.

If you suffer from this condition then you probably find that you experience periods of anxiety or tenseness which can only be relieved by pulling your hair.

Impact on life

People who suffer from this condition experience a lack of self-confidence, isolation and shame at their condition. They avoid going to the hairdressers or taking part in certain activities. They may also choose jobs which allow them to wear a hat to hide those bald patches caused by hair pulling.

Treatment for Trichotillomania

There is no cure but it can be treated and managed. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms then arrange a visit to your GP. Treatment for trichotillomania comes in two forms:

  • Medication
  • Therapy

This condition is largely anxiety related which means that it can be treated with anxiety medications such as Lithium and Prozac. These drugs aim to control the impulses responsible for this behaviour.

A GP will carry out an examination of the affected area as well as taking a full medical history before deciding upon an appropriate form of medication.

He or she will also recommend that the sufferer has some form of therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which looks at the root causes of their anxiety as well as helping them to control these urges. The aim is to enable the sufferer to recognise what triggers these urges, and when, and the outcome of these actions. This may help them to look at alternatives to hair pulling.

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