What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder characterised by a compulsion to pull out one’s own hair from the scalp, but it can also include hair from other areas such as the eyebrows, eyelashes, genital area, and beard or moustache.

People with trichotillomania experience growing tension and anxiety until they are able to satisfy the intense urge to pull out their hair. Afterwards, these feelings of anxiety are alleviated for a short period bringing a sense of relief or control.

The sensation of hair pulling can offer a short-term release or distraction from a painful situation, and therefore some associate it with switching off or relaxing. This association can lead to hair pulling becoming a coping mechanism and eventually becoming a habit when an unconnected future trauma or unpleasant event occurs. 

What causes Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is a symptom. The cause may vary but can range from things such as:

  • A childhood friend suggestion to pull out an eyelash to make a wish.
  • Frustration from bullying.
  • Low self-esteem as a result of turbulence at home.
  • Trauma


Some things that might help relieve the anxiety until the urge passes are:

  • Use a grounding technique.
  • Squeeze a stress ball 5 times in the left hand followed by 5 times in the right hand and repeat.
  • Do something physical such as running up and down the stairs or skipping with a rope.
  • Repeat positive affirmations.
  • Occupy your hands by playing with plasticine, knitting or drawing.
  • Have a shower 

Overcoming Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is not a genetic or biological condition and no one is born with it so it doesn’t have to be a lifelong affliction and can be completely overcome. 

To start with, it is vital to address and alter your perception of the event or events that created the trichotillomania in the first place.  Understanding what actually happened to trigger the pulling is the key. You might like to use our timeline to help you find the origin so you can start to challenge, positively condition and alter the negative schemas (beliefs) you have created. Try these tips to get you started:

  • Locate the origin of your belief. You can do this by writing a timeline.
  • Challenge the origin of your belief: what you believed then may not be true now, or perhaps never was.
  • Practice and rehearse being confident. You might like to try our Mirror Therapy Resource.
  • Break down challenging situations by setting yourself small goals.
  • When you find yourself in challenging situations, use our Grounding Techniques to help you through.
  • Learn to love yourself because you are amazing and deserve to live your life to the full.

Living with Trichotillomania can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…

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