Trichotillomania During Adolescence: Causes and Treatment

· September 17, 2018
Discover all you need to know about this disorder and what you can do to solve it.
Trichotillomania is essentially an impulse control disorder that causes people to pull out their hair.

Given that this can become a bad habit, over time it can lead people to lose a great part of their hair. In fact, hair may stop growing in some areas, or grow with less abundance.

If you have a child or family member who suffers from this disorder, don’t be discouraged. Rather, help your loved one identify the problem. At the same time, offer him or her adequate therapeutic alternatives. Without a doubt, this will be very helpful.

The origin of trichotillomania

Health experts are unclear on exactly what triggers this disorder. However, specialists attribute its appearance to several factors, such as:

  • Environmental factors. A person can develop trichotillomania as a result of external factors, like depression or tension.
  • Genetic factors. Some experts believe this disorder to be hereditary and that several members of the same family can experience trichotillomania.
  • Biological factors. Experts believe that trichotillomania during adolescence is the result of a biochemical imbalance in the brain. As a result, certain substances or neurotransmitters don’t perform correctly.
    • Streptococcus. One hypothesis states that this bacterial infection can lead to trichotillomania.

There are several signs that reveal that a young person may be suffering from trichotillomania. For example: Noticeable hair loss, few eyelashes or eyebrow hairs, bald spots on the head or other parts of the body, infected follicles.

It’s worth pointing out that this behavior usually affects other areas as well. These include eyebrows, eyelashes, as well as chest hair and facial hair in men.

Trichotillomania During Adolescence: Causes and Treatment

Behavior in individuals with trichotillomania

In most cases, this behavior appears during preadolescence or during adolescence. However, some patients may develop trichotillomania before the age of 2, or between the ages of 3 and 4.

As for teens, pulling their hair out is a compulsive nervous disorder similar to that of adults.

Teens tend to be very concerned with their appearance. Therefore, trichotillomania often causes them to feel ashamed of their looks. As a result, they try to hide their hair loss in different ways.

Adolescents who suffer from trichotillomania often have low self-esteem and suffer from depression or anxietyIn fact, this disorder has also been associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, studies have shown that the two disorders aren’t actually related.

Treatment of trichotillomania

To date, there is no definitive cure for trichotillomania. Just the same, there are alternative medical treatments that can help teens control this behavior effectively.

  • The most common therapy for trichotillomania is cognitive behavioral therapy. This sometimes goes hand in hand with pharmaceutical serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
  • Another treatment option that has shown to have favorable results is hypnosis.
  • Self-registry diaries can help to identify the actions that trigger a hair-pulling crisis. Knowing how and when the behavior is most common will help doctors administer proper treatment.
  • Psicoanalisis, among other techniques

Factors that can cause an individual to relapse

The factors that may lead teens to pull their hair out are difficult to identify and avoid. In general, the most common causes are the same hormonal changes that are typical of adolescence. Family conflicts, also common during this time period, are another leading factor.

At the same time, changing schools, losing a relative, and sexual abuse can also cause relapse. In the face of these events, seeking professional help and respecting your loved ones are both important. Be sure not to make your child feel judged. He or she will be sure to value your support.

Trichotillomania During Adolescence: Causes and Treatment

There is hope!

The desire to avoid this behavior can help children look for alternatives to pulling out their hair.

1. Have a plan to stop doing it

This consists of realizing when individuals feel the impulse to pull out their hair and trying to do something positive in that moment. Keeping a diary of the times children pull out their hair helps them realize how big the problem really is.

2. Choose healthy options for expressing emotions

These options should be simple and easy to put into practice. They can include drawing, painting, listening to music, etc. Teens can also try volunteering. This can help clear their minds and give them something positive and rewarding to do.

3. Improve self-esteem and self-acceptance

Negative emotions and uncomfortable situations are a part of life – they’re part of the human experience. Accepting this fact can reduce one’s need to pull out his or her hair.

Building up self-esteem by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones helps teens clarify their values and establish goals in life. 

By following these suggestions as well as any treatment plan established by a professional, teens will realize they can control trichotillomania and enjoy a full and happy life.