Trichotillomania (TTM) is also commonly known as Compulsive Hair Pulling. It involves the pulling of one's hair, most often from the scalp, but often from other areas, e.g. the face (eyelashes, eyebrows, beards, and moustaches), arms, legs, underarms, chest, stomach, and genital area.
It is classed as an Impulse Control Disorder, along with intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, pathological gambling, and pyromania. Dependant on which current research you read it may or may not be an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Trichotillomania can occur at any age. Children tend to suffer from automatic trichotillomania, in that they do not necessarily realise they are doing it, they are also least likely to pull hair from anywhere but the scalp. It is thought that children under five will grow out of the condition.
Adults can either suffer with automatic trichotillomania or focused trichotillomania, possibly both dependant on the given situation, there is no 'common' sufferer or situation. Each time can be different even for the same individual. Trichotillomania suffers can 'lose' themselves for hours in the task. They may feel trapped in the moment, knowing they have spent a long time doing it, but be physically unable to refrain themselves.
Trichotillomania can be a form of self harm, although the sufferer may not feel that way. My personal experience is that I never considered it self harm, but was ashamed if anyone saw me do it. I often did not ever know I was doing it. For me my problem becomes worse during times of great stress. Sufferers of trichotillomania can also suffer from OCDs and mental health problems, i.e. depression, anxiety, etc. but this is not always the case.
For more information and support visit the links below:
- Trichotillomania Learning Center. This is an American website, but they offer international support in groups and online.
- OCD - UK