Trichotillomania is a condition of compulsive hair pulling. It can be an emotionally or physically addictive disorder. Some people experience only occasional episodes of trichotillomania while others experience it all day, every day. Trichotillomania sufferers are usually “infected” with the condition for some time before they are able to overcome it. When someone starts to go through trichotillomania it usually results in a bout of hair pulling that does not fade over time. There are cognitive therapy, medication and different therapies that have been used to treat this condition.
Trichotillomania can be classified as a type of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but there is no proof to back up this claim. There are people who have been diagnosed with OCD and are still alive today, yet trichotillomania does not fit this mold. There are many possible causes for trichotillomania. One theory is that trichotillomania is the result of a faulty linkage between two areas of the brain.
The theory states that trichotillomania occurs when the left (prefrontal) region of the brain is mislinked to the left (periaqueductal grey matter) – OCD. Because of this, when people experience a strong craving for hair pulling behaviors (like pulling out one’s own eyelashes), it pulls the “orebellum” of their brain into the front of the brain. This causes the individual to experience an irresistible urge to pull out eyelashes. The best known treatment for this disorder is the use of two types of medications. These medications are designed to stimulate neurochemicals in the sufferer’s brain – specifically, a chemical known as glutamate.
Glutamate is responsible for the transmission of information in the brain. People who suffer from trichotillomania, show a severe lack of glutamate activity in the brains. As a result, the individual experiences an irresistible desire to pull out eyelashes. Although the condition may not be considered a true form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), it is often confused with it because the condition shares symptoms with OCD. However, trichotillomania is not caused by the obsessive compulsive disorder itself, but rather, by a fundamental difference in the way that the brain works. Thus, it can be shown to be a separate disorder from OCD.
People who suffer from trichotillomania are those who exhibit an excessive amount of hair loss – whether or not they do have OCD. While the majority of trichotillomania sufferers do not have obsessive compulsive disorders, many do, and thus share many of the same symptoms as OCD. Some of these symptoms include excessive worry, restlessness, and irritability. While there is a great deal of debate on the similarities between trichotillomania and ocd, both conditions share many symptoms that are common to both – including the compulsion to pull out eyelashes.
Trichotillomania sufferers will often pull out their eyelashes when they are sad or frustrated. In fact, this compulsion can get so strong that some individuals will perform it involuntarily. This is often confused with regular hair pulling, which many individuals experience on a daily basis. This can trigger a rebound response in which the individual will grow back the eyelash after they “have a bad day”. However, if this behavior continues over several days or weeks, the eyelash pulling can lead to complete eyelash loss.
Because many people struggle to accept the reality of their condition, trichotillomania can have a host of social ramifications. The inability to wear eyelashes, go out in public or maintain a job can all be extremely frustrating for an individual suffering from this disorder. While some trichotilllomania sufferers can successfully managed this through therapy (which may include psychotherapy), many struggle to completely control the disorder. This is why a qualified body-focused repetitive behavior practitioner would be the most effective in addressing this condition.
The goal of therapy is to break the connection between pulling out eyelashes and the pulling out of eyebrows. Individuals will be taught techniques for controlling the strength of their pulling behavior, as well as ways to prevent themselves from ever pulling out their eyebrows. These individuals may also learn how to recognize when they are experiencing an onset of trichotillomania and need to stop their self-grooming before it becomes habitual. For many, these techniques will be enough to completely eliminate trichotillomania from their lives, but for others, additional help from a qualified professional will be necessary in order to completely cure themselves of this condition.