Trichotillomania Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder that is characterized by an urge to pull out one’s own hair, commonly from the arms, scalp, face, and pubic areas, resulting in noticeable bare spots. Trichotillomania is also defined as a self-induced and on-going hair loss and is referred to informally as hair-pulling disorder. Individuals who develop trichotillomania typically engage in these behaviors in order to release tension, achieve a sense of relief, or generate gratification. The severity of trichotillomania can vary from person to person, though commonly ranges from mild in nature to extreme, where hair-pulling urges are all-consuming. Trichotillomania can occur in adults, adolescents and children. In adults, trichotillomania develops more frequently in women than in men, whereas in children, trichotillomania occurs equally in males and females. Regardless of age of gender, trichotillomania can be a devastating disorder to live with, particularly as it can affect an individual’s physical well being, mental health, and social life. If you or a loved one is suffering with trichotillomania, take hope in knowing that several resources are available for help and healing.

Statistics on Trichotillomania

Statistics about trichotillomania are helpful as they can provide greater comprehension about this condition in addition to creating improved outcomes for those who are suffering. The following are important statistics about trichotillomania that may be helpful in better understanding this illness:

  • According to the Office of Rare Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, trichotillomania is considered a rare disease which means that less that 200,000 people in the United States are affected by this disorder [1].
  • Adult women are diagnosed twice as often with trichotillomania as are adult men [1].
  • “Automatic” pulling occurs in approximately three-quarters of adult patients with trichotillomania [1].
  • Trichotillomania is diagnosed in all age groups; onset is more frequent during preadolescence and young adulthood, with mean age of onset between 9 and 13 years of age, and a notable peak at 12-13 [2].
  • There appears to be a female predominance among preadolescents to young adults, with between 70-93% of patients being female [2].

Causes of Trichotillomania

While an exact cause has not yet been discovered that has been linked to the development of trichotillomania, there are thoughts and speculations in regards to how this disorder progresses. Anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders are commonly co-occurring in individuals with trichotillomania, and it is thought that the hair pulling may be triggered by stress associated with increased tension or pressures experienced. Other biological factors may also play a role in the development of Trichotillomania, such as an imbalance of hormones and chemicals in the body that can affect how the brain controls impulses.

Signs and Symptoms of Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is evident by particular signs and symptoms that will be displayed in men, women, adolescents or children who may be struggling with this disorder. If you or a loved one is struggling with trichotillomania, these symptoms may help you become aware of what you are dealing with or lead you to reach out for professional help. Common signs and symptoms of trichotillomania include but are not limited to:

  • Repetitively pulling hair out, usually from scalp or other areas of the body
  • Presence of bare spots where hair has been pulled out
  • A feeling of relief, satisfaction, and/or pleasure after acting on the impulse to pull hair
  • A sense of tension before pulling hair or when trying to resist the urge to pull hair
  • Presence of other common behaviors, such as inspecting the hair root, pulling hair between teeth, chewing on hair, or eating hair (tichophagia).

If you or your loved one has been experiencing any of these above symptoms as a result of trichotillomania, it is recommended that you seek medical and professional help immediately.

Trichotillomania Effects

Though trichotillomania is a mental health disorder with physical ramifications, it can result in consequences that affect every aspect of your well being. No matter the length of time one might be suffering with trichotillomania, the effects can be debilitating if not treated or addressed professionally. Understanding how trichotillomania may affect the different aspects of your life may encourage you to get the help you need and deserve. The following are some of the effects of trichotillomania:

Physical Effects – The act of pulling hair can be damaging and risky to the body, especially over long periods of time. These are some physical effects that may be experienced:

  • Infections in skin or hair root site
  • Permanent hair loss
  • Repetitive stress injury
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction if hair is ingested

Psychological Effects – Trichotillomania will have a tremendous impact on your mental health, particularly if it is left untreated. Some of the psychological effects that may be experienced include:

  • Low self-esteem or poor body image due to hair loss and skin damage
  • Increased feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Feelings of shame and embarrassment

Finally, trichotillomania can have negative consequences of your social life. Social effects of trichotillomania include:

  • Increased isolation and withdrawal from loved ones due to embarrassment
  • Lack of enjoyment in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
  • Decreased performance in work or school
  • Avoidance of social situations in order to hide resulting hair loss

Trichotillomania Treatment

If you or a loved one has been suffering with trichotillomania, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your trials. Fortunately, by seeking the appropriate help and care you need, you can find healing and hope from this mental illness. Dealing with the effects of trichotillomania in addition to any other co-occurring disorders can be overwhelming and isolating. A trichotillomania treatment center can provide the tools and resources you need to recover and heal from any situation you may have endured.


[1]: “Prevalence and Incidence of Trichotillomania”. 2013-02-12. Retrieved 2013-02-22.

[2]: Chamberlain SR, Menzies L, Sahakian BJ, Fineberg NA (April 2007). “Lifting the veil on trichotillomania”. Am J Psychiatry 164 (4): 568–74. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.164.4.568. PMID 17403968.

[3]: Bisson JI, Sakhuja D. (2006). “Trichotillomanias”. Psychiatry 5 (7): 240-242. Bisson, J. I.; Sakhuja, D. (2006). “Trichotillomanias”. Psychiatry 5 (7): 240. doi:10.1053/j.mppsy.2006.04.004. edit

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Online Help Guide for Addiction