Psychiatric conditions are incredibly prevalent in today’s society, especially due to the ample amount of stressors that we encounter on a daily basis. With that being said, seeking the appropriate treatment (when necessary) is advised to ensure that you live a long and happy life. Trichotillomania (TTM) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders associated with hair-pulling. There are millions of people throughout the world who suffer from this disorder and with the ability to understand the condition, individuals can seek the appropriate treatment.
Facts and Effects
As with the majority of mental conditions, individuals who suffer from the specific disorder experience occupational, social, and academic detriments in their everyday lives. The Trichotillomania Impact Project for Adults conducted a survey based on 1697 respondents pertaining to the impairment of living with TTM. Over 20% of the participants said they refrained from taking vacations, 23% said it brought forth occupational difficulties, and 24% said that they missed school as a result of their condition. With that being said, the condition requires immediate attention to ensure that sufferers are able to live happy and healthy lives.
The Likelihood of Experiencing Trichotillomania
Although this particular mental disorder is incredibly common throughout the world, it is commonly misdiagnosed and treated inappropriately. With over 3.4% adults in the world who suffer from the condition, it is imperative that behavioral psychologists develop an appropriate course of action to ensure that their patients receive the correct treatment. Although 3.4% of the world’s population may seem like an insignificant percentage, it roughly equates to over 280 million people who have to live with TTM on a daily basis.
Trichotillomania and Additional Psychiatric Disorders
There are a variety of different mental disorders that develop either as a result of a previous disorder or in addition to a previous disorder. Trichotillomania commonly develops in individuals who are presently suffering from another condition that may force them to participate in the action of hair-pulling. Over 60% of the individuals studied by Flessner and colleagues were suffering from both TTM and another mental disorder. Some of these previous conditions may have been related to phobias, obsessive-compulsions, and substance abuse disorders.
There have been an array of different psychiatric researchers who have attributed the development of TTM to post-traumatic stress disorder or being affected by a specific trauma. Douglas Woods, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee noted that only 5% of the patients that he has studied over the years developed TTM as a direct result of PTSD. With that being said, there is an incredibly low likelihood that the hair-pulling disorder may be a result of a specific trauma.
The Areas Commonly Affected by TTM
Due to the fact that TTM is a disorder directly related to pulling hair, patients have shown signs of TTM anywhere that hair has been growing on their bodies. The most common sites include the pubic area, eyebrows, scalp, and eyelashes. Instead of the event being completely subconscious, TTM can occur both subconsciously and consciously making it an automatic and focused disorder. As an example, patients may pull their hair outside of their own person awareness and they may also pull their hair a response to environmental triggers.
The Dangers of TTM
As with any medical condition, there are dangers associated with the development of trichotillomania ranging from skin irritations to relatively serious infections. The majority of individuals who suffer from TTM will show signs of minor (or major) skin irritations at the sites where they pull the most hair. This is due to the fact that the follicles will try to grow the hair back, but the individual will repetitively prevent the follicles from producing more hair, thus resulting in raised skin abnormalities and rashes. A second danger associated with this mental condition is the dental problems that may occur. Not only do individuals with TTM pull their hair, they are also prone to biting and chewing on the hair as well. With the repetitive need to break down the hair shaft, it can lead to excessive dental issues in the future.
Infections are another incredibly important thing to consider in patients with TTM. With the nature of hair-pulling, the skin becomes inflamed and relatively irritated, eventually leading to sores or blisters. If these wounds are repetitively opened and exposed to bacterium, it could inevitably lead to serious infections. The hair-pulling is not the only factor that contributes to the danger of infection, but ingesting the hair does as well. GI complications are incredibly prevalent in individuals suffering from TTM as the GI tract may develop trichobezoars.
Trichotillomania is not only a mental condition that affects the physical well-being of an individual, it can also affect their social lives as well. With the opportunity to seek behavioral guidance, individuals should seek the assistance of a mental health professional immediately.