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Treatment not effective in hair pulling disorder

Trichotillomania, a disorder in which a person repeatedly pulls out their hair, can have a crippling effect on its sufferers and the treatment is rarely effective.

Treatment not effective in hair pulling disorder

Trichotillomania, a disorder in which a person repeatedly pulls out their own hair, leading to visible hair loss, can have a crippling effect on its sufferers and the treatment is rarely effective. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that it has a much larger impact on people than most mental health practitioners understand. A lot of people look at it and say it's just a nervous habit, but it is not and up to 3.4 percent of adults may suffer from it. Hair-pulling appears to help people relieve tension, but little is known about why people develop the disorder or if it is related to other psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety. To better understand the condition, the researchers surveyed 1,697 people with symptoms of trichotillomania who had been recruited through the Trichotillomania Learning Center's Web page. Forty percent of survey respondents reported having avoided social activities because of their hair pulling, 36 percent said they had avoided group activities, and 20 percent said they avoided going on vacation. Fourteen percent said they drank alcohol to help cope with negative feelings due to hair pulling, while nearly 18 percent said they used tobacco products for this reason. Among those who underwent treatment for trichotillomania - most commonly drug treatment, usually with an antidepressant such as Prozac - just 5 percent said they were very much improved. There is little evidence to support drug treatment of trichotillomania. Probably the best option right now is cognitive behavioural therapy. This is a type of psychotherapy in which a person learns to recognise and change negative patterns of thinking or acting. The disorder can have a number of consequences for health; sufferers may develop repetitive strain injury, while some who mouth or swallow their hair can damage their teeth and even develop potentially fatal balls of hair in their stomach. People may also feel guilty about not being able to stop pulling their hair.
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,
January 2007
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