More and more teens falling prey to hair-pulling disorder

Until recently, Sanjana (name changed) was suffering from trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder, which resulted in substantial baldness and poor hair growth. But after a few counselling sessions with a local trichologist, this Class XII student seems to be getting rid of the disorder and seems to be happy with the growth of her hair.

City trichologists said that the number of patients suffering from the hair-pulling disorder is on the rise and is widespread among teenagers. They said mental stress was the main reason for trichotillomania, wherein people experienced a compulsive urge to pull out their hair leading to a substantial hair loss. Experts said tricotillomania is more common in teenagers.

Sharing her trauma, Sanjana’s mother said, “Her baldness was our major concern. Growth of her hair was unlike that of the children of her age. We tried several treatments for her till the age of seven, but all went in vain. Then we tried out whatever suggestions and advice our friends and relatives gave. Primarily we were thinking because she has curly hair, the length doesn’t show. But as the years passed, our concern grew.”

Another trichologist said that one of her patients, an 8-year-old girl, developed trichotillomania after her parents had a second child. She assumed that her parents did not care for her anymore and all their love and attention was for the new born. This stressed her to such an extent that she fell pray to the hair-pulling disorder.

“Trichotillomania patient pull out their hair subconsciously. It happens while the patient is sitting alone, watching television or reading. At times a person does it in his or her sleep. It only shows after the patient has losses substantial amount of hair,” Trichologist Dr Apoorva Shah said.  Commenting on the issue, Dr Ankita Gawaskar said that those suffering from the disorder refuse to accept that they are pulling out their own hair. 

“It generally due to social stigma associated with the disorder that we find a patient refuses to accept that he is suffering from trichotillomania. But after continuous follow-ups and counselling sessions they final agree. We also take hair samples and after examination we confirm whether the patient is pulling their own hair,” Gawaskar said.

Dr Narendra Patwardhan said children fall prey to this disorder mostly because of their tendency to seek attention. “At times elder sibling start plucking their hair the moment they feel the younger one is getting more attention.”

The cure
Tricologists said that treatment for trichotillomania varies from case to case, “Usually, the treatment lasts for about two to three months, including oral medication, and psychiatric help in extreme cases,” Patwardhan said.  Gawaskar said that patients are advised to wear caps so that it deters them from pulling the hair out and gloves so that in case they try to pull hair subconsciously, the gloves prevent them from getting a proper grip.  

Did you know?
Trichotillomania (also known as trichotillosis) is the compulsive urge to pull out (and in some cases, eat) one’s own hair leading to noticeable hair loss, distress, and social or functional impairment. It is classified as an impulse control disorder by DSM-IV and is often chronic and difficult to treat.
Trichotillomania may be present in infants, but the peak age of onset is 9 to 13. It may be triggered by depression or stress. Due to social implications the disorder is often unreported and it is difficult to accurately predict its prevalence; the lifetime prevalence is estimated to be between 0.6% (overall) and may be as high as 1.5% (in males) to 3.4% (in females). Common areas for hair to be pulled out are the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, arms, hands, and pubic hairs. 

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