Many people in this world have at least one bad habit. Whether it be biting their nails, scraping their teeth on their fork when they eat, or procrastinating, most habits are essentially harmless. However, did you know that some things that seem like bad habits may actually have a deeper cause? One of those things is called trichotillomania, or the hair-pulling disease. The word can be broken down into the word parts “tricho,” “tillo,” and “mania.” Tricho- means hair. Tillo- means to pluck, pluck off. Mania- means addiction to or excessive obsession with.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are some signs and symptoms of trichotillomania. The number of symptoms experienced may vary:

  • Removing the hair of one’s head, eyebrows, eyelashes, or other body areas repeatedly, sometimes with variance in the removal site.
  • An increase in tension prior to pulling, or when you attempt not to pull.
  • Once the hair is removed, feeling a sense of pleasure or relief.
  • Thinner, bald, or shortened patches of hair wherever it is being removed.
  • Routines that revolve around hair pulling, or an inclination to pull certain types of hair.
  • Biting, chewing, and/or eating pulled-out hair.
  • Rubbing pulled-out hair across your lips or face, or playing with it.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop pulling out your hair, or to do it less often.
  • Significant distress or problems at work, school, or in social situations related to pulling out your hair.


Some people who have trichotillomania may also experience the urge to pick at their skin, bite their nails, or chew on their lips. These behaviors can be either conscious actions to relieve stress, or automatic actions that the person may not realize they even do. For some, these behaviors can be stress responses to negative emotions. For others, these behaviors common with trichotillomania may be actions done to feel positive emotions, like relief.

The cause of trichotillomania is unknown. However, there are some risk factors such as family history, age, other disorders, and stress. The most common age for this to develop is between ten and thirteen, and often is a lifelong issue. More women than men are treated for this disorder, but that is because women are more likely to seek medical advice.

Some problems that accompany trichotillomania are emotional distress, problems in social or professional settings, skin and hair damage, and hairballs. Emotional distress and problems in social or professional settings can stem from shame and embarrassment, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Individuals that have been experiencing these symptoms for years may experience hairballs which can lead to digestion issues.

As always, if you are experiencing this condition or any other mental health distress, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. If you are in NW Indiana or the Chicago area, come visit us at Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. We are located at 6819 W. 167th Street, Tinley Park, IL. We can be reached at (708) 633-8000. For those elsewhere, call your state’s professional associations for referrals to local counselors.

Written By: Emma at Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.

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