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Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania (pronounced: trik-oh-till-oh-may-nee-ah) or "trich" as it is commonly known, is a type of psychological condition that involves strong urges to pull hair – scalp hair, eyelashes, beard hair, nose hair, pubic hair, eyebrows or other body hair. While some folks pull large handfuls of hair that can leave bald patches on the scalp or eyebrows, others pull out their hair one strand at a time. Some people even examine the strand after pulling it out, or play with it after the hair has been pulled. Around half the trichotillomania sufferers put the hair in their mouths, or even swallow it, after pulling it. In extreme cases, this could lead to development of a hairball (also called trichobezoar) in the abdomen. It is a serious condition, also called Rapunzel syndrome. Such a trichobezoar could cause intestinal blockage that could only be relieved with the help of surgery.

People with trich are sometimes referred to as "trichsters". Even though the condition is fairly rare, it may be distantly related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, with which it shares some similarities. Statistics show that it affects only 1% – 3% of the population, even though new studies suggest that the rate of hair pulling may be around 10% or higher. However, the number of reported trich victims has increased down the years, probably because of a reduced stigmatism around the condition. The number of reported sufferers is now supposed to be about 1% or 2% of the population, 65% of whom are female. In fact, trichotillomania affects about twice as many girls as men. The majority of trichotillomania sufferers have develop the condition during adolescence. However, it can also begin when a person is as young as 1 year old.

With the right help, most victims overcome their hair-pulling urges. This help could involve therapy medication, or a blend of both. Though medical science doesn’t know for certain the causes of trichotillomania, many clinicians classify trichotillomania as a habitual behavior, in the same family as nail biting or compulsive skin picking. Some feel that it might be related to Oppressive Compulsive Disorder as OCD and trichotillomania are both anxiety disorders. This is one of the reasons why the urges that lead to hair pulling can be stronger when a person is stressed out or worried.

To date there is no cure for trichotillomania; however, there are some treatments like using drugs such as anafranil, prozac, and lithium. There have also been some reports of vitamin therapy being successfully employed. But no one medication has been proven to have a specific advantage over another. Similarly, drugs alone have not been known to be particularly effective for a lot of people.

Trichotillomania sufferers should use care in choosing a therapist who has specific training, experience, and insight into the condition, lest one be over diagnosed or overmedicated. Prozac and other similar drugs that some professionals prescribe on a one-size-fits-all basis, are liable to have limited usefulness in treating trichotillomania, and can often have significant side effects. If, by any chance, you are concerned about hair pulling, you should talk to a parent, school counselor, or someone you trust about getting help in overcoming the problem.

 
   
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