A woman with no top is looking to the side with most of her face covered by hair.

The Troubles and Treatments of Trichotillomania

Have you ever wondered why that person over there can’t seem to stop pulling at their eyebrows?

They don’t seem to be in pain or anything. But pulling out hair doesn’t seem like a typical reaction. Isn’t that a form of self-harm? Should you intervene?

Well, before you go over there and interrupt someone’s day, you might want to consider that this person might have trichotillomania. It’s a hair-pulling disorder that compels people to pull hair from their scalp, eyebrows, or other areas. This can leave obvious bald patches and cause significant distress as these people try to disguise their hair loss. However, in some cases, it’s quite a mild and manageable condition. Not all cases are so lucky, unfortunately.

Either way, though, it is more damaging to go up to a person with this condition and confront them about it. Doing so can make that person feel judged, which could lead them to avoid seeking help for fear of further judgment.

If you want to help someone with trichotillomania, you’re better off learning about the condition first. Luckily, this article is here to guide you on some of the basic facts surrounding trichotillomania and its troubles and treatments.

Trichotillomania can be a serious source of discomfort for sufferers.

An adult is hugging their knees on leaf-covered ground next to a brick building.

The first thing to keep in mind is that trichotillomania can be extremely distressing for those who have it. While some can live with their condition, others are overwhelmed by the loss of the hair and its impact on their lives. And despite their feelings, they’ll still have a strong urge to pull out their hair. So even as they try to disguise bald patches on their scalp with a hat or cover missing spots in their eyebrows with makeup, their situation will still worsen and increase their stress. In turn, they’ll have an even harder time being able to socialize with others due to the self-consciousness that trichotillomania promotes.

But why then does this condition make hairpulling so compelling?

For some people, trichotillomania offers them a way to relieve any tension, stress, or negative emotions they feel. It seems contradictory considering how much stress hair loss can cause. But even so, satisfying their desire to pull out hair can give them a great sense of relief.

For others, trichotillomania is just something they do automatically. So they might start pulling hair without even realizing it while they’re bored, reading, or watching television.

Other symptoms they might encounter include:

  • Getting increased tension before pulling out hair or resisting the urge to pull
  • Feeling pleasure or relief once the hair has been pulled
  • Having visible hair loss
  • Preferring some types of hair over others
  • Applying ritualistic hair-pulling methods or patterns
  • Wanting to bite, chew, or eat any pulled-out hair
  • Playing with the pulled-out hair
  • Rubbing the pulled-out hair across lips or face
  • Attempting to stop pulling out hair with little success
  • Dealing with significant distress over the hair pulling

All of which can add up to a seriously mixed bag of frustration for sufferers.

Many people misunderstand the cause of the condition.

A blonde-haired woman in a blue shirt with white spots has her hand on her forehead in a gesture of frustration.

It doesn’t help either that the general public doesn’t really understand what causes trichotillomania. As a result, there are a few myths out there that need to be dispelled.

Despite some seeming similarities, trichotillomania is not a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It’s true that trichotillomania does look similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). After all, the two conditions involve repeated, compelling behaviors. But according to The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, trichotillomania and OCD both have enough differences to indicate that they are not one and the same. And because of that, trichotillomania is classified under the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Likewise, trichotillomania should not be viewed as a form of self-mutilation.

Because a significant loss of hair can be seen as distressing, trichotillomania can look like a form of self-mutilation. But it’s not. Self-mutilation is when people try to harm, punish, or distract themselves from emotions they aren’t able to tolerate. In contrast, those who engage in trichotillomania pull hair to feel positive sensations, such as stress relief or gratification—even if the end result is distressing.

Lastly, the condition can be seen as a sign of some hidden trauma, but it shouldn’t be viewed like that in general.

Much like how many can mistake the stress behind trichotillomania as self-mutilation, others might view it as some sort of unresolved issue that needs to be addressed. But in general, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Recent knowledge of trichotillomania has indicated that the condition is not usually a sign of hidden trauma.

So, what does cause it?

A bright neon question mark is surrounded by an equally bright neon square in a grimy hallway.

So, you know now what doesn’t cause trichotillomania. But what is the cause?

Genetic Predispositions

In some cases, the cause of trichotillomania can be a genetic predisposition for body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors notes, several studies indicate that a great percentage of people with BFRBs have immediate family members with the same issue. One study even showed how hairpulling can equally affect identical and fraternal twins.

Other Related Factors

But a genetic predisposition is just one potential cause of trichotillomania. There are other factors that may be involved as well, such as:

  • Temperament
  • Environment
  • Age of onset
  • Family stress

How can trichotillomania be treated?

No matter the cause, there are a few ways people can treat their trichotillomania.

Medication

To help minimize the desire to pick or pull at hair, health-care professionals may prescribe medication. While the medication won’t treat trichotillomania itself, it can help people with the condition get through therapy that might otherwise have made them feel too uncomfortable. It can even treat other psychiatric conditions that they may be suffering from like depression.

It can be an expensive minimal treatment, however. After all, Americans pay more for prescription medications compared to most other countries. But there is a way around this expense, though. For instance, international and Canadian pharmacy referral sites like Canada Med Pharmacy ship medication from licensed pharmacies outside of the United States for a much cheaper price than what can be found at the local brick-and-mortar pharmacy.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The most important and effective treatment to look at, however, is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment helps patients address their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that gives them a stronger sense of control over their hairpulling. What’s more, this treatment can involve a technique called habit reversal training, which can help combat the strong compulsion for hairpulling that trichotillomania creates.

But don’t forget that these treatments will only help someone with trichotillomania if they feel ready to be treated. So try not to make them feel ashamed. They need all the encouragement they can get because they’re already doing their best to fight themselves and their condition.

Against a brick wall background, two hands are holding up a sign with an angry face on it.

Anger and Anxiety: A GAD-Awful Combo

For those of you who deal with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), your lives are likely filled with persistent, excessive worry.

Each day, you’ll end up spending time dealing with a number of worries, and they don’t even have to relate to one another. They can range from an excessive focus on keeping up with financial needs to constantly planning schedules around any and all what-if scenarios.

But you might feel like you should hold on to that anxiety. And you’re not the only person with GAD to think that! Many with GAD believe that their worrying helps them avoid negative consequences, so they don’t actually want to get rid of their condition. After all, doesn’t anxiety push you to plan and do things as effectively as possible?

While it can, GAD does have its own dark side: irritation. This feeling is not a healthy one, often leading to intense anger. So here’s why you might want to consider at least minimizing the hold that GAD has on you.

Irritability is a main diagnostic factor for GAD.

When professionals look to diagnose people with GAD, one of the main factors they look for is irritation. And as many know, this feeling can be considered a mild form of anger or frustration.

While most anxiety disorders are likely to cause irritability, GAD is the only one that lists it as a defining part of its criteria.

To find out why, let’s learn a little bit more about GAD and how it connects to anger.

What is GAD?

GAD is an anxiety disorder characterized by a tenaciously exorbitant worry over any number of issues. As the word generalized in the name of this disorder shows, people with GAD don’t have a specific set of worries. Instead, they just remain worried about almost anything and everything throughout the day.

What connects it to anger?

The worry-induced anxiety that comes from GAD often feels impossible to control, and it can lead to feeling trapped and frustrated. The worry never truly seems to go away, but that natural, anxious fight-or-flight response demands you do something to get rid of it all. And if you can’t seem to flee, your brain will feel the need to fight.

In fact, according to the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy journal, this fight response is particularly strong in those who have GAD. Looking more into the details of the study, the website ScienceDaily notes that among 381 participants, 131 of those with GAD expressed high levels of trait anger and internalized anger. The study’s revelation seems to indicate that heightened levels of anger — and in particular, internalized anger expression — might be a strong predictor for those who will have or who already have GAD.

But that factor needs more research.

Sadly, one of the main researchers reported to ScienceDaily that more research is needed to determine what connects GAD to anger. For now, the exact connection between GAD and anger remains unknown.

What can you do about anger and GAD?

Feeling constant worry, irritation, and anger isn’t good for your well-being. It creates a mentally miserable environment that leads you to thinking and feeling the worst. It can disrupt your life, give you chronic physical pain, and lead to other poor health conditions.

So, while GAD might help you schedule plans and avoid potential disasters, the negative emotions surrounding the condition, when left unchecked, can cause a number of problems.

But you can manage GAD. You just need the right tools.

Seek therapy.

One of the best tools to help you manage GAD is therapy. With therapy, you can learn techniques to help you change how you think about things and how you adapt to situations. It can offer you effective ways of coping with anxiety and all the stress that it brings.

There are a number of effective therapies for you to try:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you address negative thinking patterns and distortions.
  • Mindfulness meditation teaches you to sit comfortably, relax on your own, and think in the present instead of worrying about future problems.
  • Biofeedback allows you to see how your body responds to certain stimuli and what you can do about it.

For more information on GAD-related therapy, talk to your doctor. They’ll have a better idea of what treatments are available near you and what might help you best.

Consider pharmaceutical assistance.

In addition to therapy, your doctor may also suggest you take prescription drugs. For instance, they might offer you sertraline. Taking medication like sertraline alongside therapy is a common treatment, and it could help you further reduce your GAD symptoms.

You might think it’s a bit costly, though, and you’d be right. In America, prescription drugs are quite expensive. Adding therapy into the mix only makes that cost higher.

But there is a way to reduce how much you pay for prescription drugs! Simply look for an authentic international or Canada pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy, and order your medication from there. You’ll be able to order from licensed pharmacies outside of the United States where prescription prices are regulated more strictly, allowing you to purchase your medication at a more affordable rate.

Most importantly, don’t bottle up your feelings.

You might think it’s easier to minimize GAD’s impact on your life just by bottling up how you feel. But you’d be wrong. While hiding how you feel will prevent people from noticing your GAD symptoms right away, it can actually exacerbate your feelings. Feelings do need to be expressed eventually, and hiding yours will only make it easier for negative emotions to get the better of you when you least want them to, causing potentially ugly outbursts. And it can even lead to other negative consequences, such as poor social support, reduced closeness with others, and social dissatisfaction.

You’re better off acknowledging that you do, in fact, have these feelings and that you need to do something about them. So give therapy, medication, or both treatments a try, and stay in touch with those closest to you. It will remind you that you’re not alone in trying to deal with GAD and that there are people out there who care about how you feel.