Hair pulling disorder involves repeatedly pulling out hair from the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other parts of the body. It is also called trichotillomania.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. People often start hair pulling around the ages of 12 or 13. Possible causes include:
Hair pulling may be a simple habit for a young child. For most children, hair pulling ends within 12 months. Children who start pulling hair before 6 years of age tend to do better than those who start later.
Hair pulling may be a sign of anger, depression, or stress. Often young children find it hard to put feelings into words. Hair pulling can be a way to deal with stress and tension.
Symptoms may include:
Your child's healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines the child is taking. He will make sure that your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms.
Several types of medicines can help. Your child’s healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine for your child. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine. If a child has severe symptoms, both behavioral therapy and medicine may be best.
A mental health therapist can help your child to explore feelings and behaviors.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a way to help your child identify and change views he has about himself, the world, and the future. CBT can make your child aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help your child learn new ways to think and act.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) helps your child accept that he can have thoughts and feelings without acting on them. It also helps your child learn ways to make changes and stick to goals.
Habit reversal training helps your child become aware of when he’s about to pull hair. Then your child does what is called a competing response. This means that, for example, when your child feels like he needs to pull hair, he would make a fist and keep his hand in his lap instead.
Get emergency care if your child has serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, or harming others.