Trichotillomania (Pulling Out Your Hair)

Updated on May 24, 2010
V.F. asks from Romeoville, IL
14 answers

Hi, my friends daughter who is 10 years old has recently stared pulling out her eyelashes and her eyebrows. It is very noticeable and she hs spoken to the school counselor who suggested a book for them to read together and counseling. Is anyone going through this or know someone who is? Do you have any advice, suggestions, or recommendations. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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answers from Dallas on

I don't know much about this but I'd say something is physically wrong. If it is an OCD thing then I'd look at strep titers (ASO and anti-DNASE). I'd also consider food sensitivity testing (IgG testing). There may be more useful testing but I'd seek out counseling and try to rule out any medical issues at the same time.

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answers from Birmingham on

This is such a difficult thing to deal with. I have tourettes and Trichotillomania as well. When I was about 10 years old my mom discovered huge bald spots in my head and I had to tell her that I was pulling it out and I didn't know why. I personally have overcome the tourettes and hair pulling by a combination of things. No amount of medication ever helped me. And I have found little scientific evidence that changing your diet helps but I promise that when I started to eat right I saw a significant improvement within weeks. And on the days I eat right... organic fruits, veggies, fish, and I totally cut the caffeine and sugar out of my diet since they are stimulants... I don't twitch or pull my hair. My rule of thumb is just to eat what God made... as close to the way that He made it:-) Also, lots of water! This is strictly what has worked for me though. But I know how desperate this family must be because we tried EVERYTHING. I give the glory to God, though, because He is the one that brought my eating habits to my attention. My prayer and meditation time helps to calm me and clear my mind. It seems to be overstimulation (sugar, caffiene, anxiety) that triggers the unconcious hair-pulling and twitching for me. And others that I know , that have the same thing, agree. I hope that they find their answer and I will definatly keep this little girl and her family in my prayers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Tricheltelmaina can be a stand alone psychiatric condition but is often a self injurous behavior (SIB) that is a symptom of a more serious condition. Suggest a Board Certified Child psychaitrist to your friend. This child can be helped with good medical care, which she really needs.


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answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter did this, but at a much younger age, so it's an entirely different situation, believe it or not. If it's done by a child under 5, its considered self-soothing. A lot of these kids stop doing it on their own. My daughter, however, showed no signs of stopping, so we had to intervene. We were seeing a psychologist to help of with this issue. She wanted to put my daughter on Prozac since she felt my daughter was doing it out of anxiety.

I didn't want to put an almost 5-year old on Prozac as a first intervention. In my daughter's case, she pulled hair out of her head. She was pretty bald on on side. Oftentimes, she would then start pulling hair out of other areas of her head. It was awful! But she did the hair-pulling as part of a ritual where she'd yank her hair, then suck her thumb. So, I wanted to get her to quit sucking her thumb. I felt if she stopped, the hair--pulling would stop also. The psychologist didn't agree. She felt we would be taking away a soothing technique, so the hair pulling would increase. I felt my way was worth a try.

We used a reward chart and rewarded her heavily for not sucking her thumb. And we never mentioned the hair-pulling--just the thumb-sucking. It worked! She quit sucking her thumb and pulling her hair. Now, over a year later, she has a gorgeous head of hair!

Again, this won't be applicable to your daughter. But maybe she can try putting tape on her fingers to make it harder to pull her eyelashes and eyebrows. This will also make her be aware of when she's doing it. Maybe she can also find another substitute to use when she gets that urge to pull (like a small ball she can squeeze). Just some ideas. Definitely seek professional help!




answers from Tulsa on

Trich is a very detrimental illness because it is obvious to the world and can't really be hidden. My friend who suffers from it keeps her hair in a buzz cut, she can't pull out what she can't get her fingers on. She did take some OCD meds and they helped some.

Take this child to a Psychiatrist and discuss meds with them. Pediatricians aren't familiar with the various meds like a Psychiatrist would be. Also they can discuss options of therapy with you.

Here are some links to different types of therapy doctors can work on with your family.

Here is alink, I googled books about Trich.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter went through this. She was dealing with a death in the family and a lot of pressure at school. We looked for counseling that did not involve drugs, and art therapy was the answer. She saw the therapist for about a year and has gone back to see the therapist if she felt like she needed to. She got through it and has learned to talk more about what is bothering her. Another friend's daughter took medication and had good success that way.
Usually, there is something going on that needs to be dealt with. Definitely do not criticize or order her to stop doing it. That just adds pressure.
C.S. Chicago



answers from Chicago on

Nutritional deficiancies can cause this problem as well. Take a look at her diet. We all think we feed ourselves and kids correctly, but less than 1% eat the right way and the right things regularly. Supplementation, when eating all the colorful fruits and veggies just isn't enough.



answers from Las Vegas on

hello here is a good website.. if you havent already seen it
While I have no experience with the pulling out of one's hair, I do have experience with the nail biting and skin picking aspect.. which these are akin to that which you are asking about...
Many people in my family were nail biters, this includes, mother, father and brother.. I do believe the picking and or nail biting ALWAYS got worse when they were distressed or anxious..
It's been my experience that when people were less stressed, they picked less. Additionally, stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, fructose and even too much wheat or gluten based foods can trigger a nervous attack and start the picking and nail biting..

Now with that said.. has this young girl undergone any type of stress that she isn't talking about? could be a test, new school .. new anything???
also.. please do have her parents look into the girl's diet. some may not agree with me, but I am a firm believer that certain foods DO trigger bouts of anxiety... as can other things.. such as environmental causes...

it's worth looking into all aspects including nutrition, mental, emotional... also.. I think exercise helps a lot.. and those who suffer from anxiety, will probably agree that they more they exercise, the better they feel...

best of luck to this young girl and her family..



answers from Chicago on

Everyones responses are correct in that this can become a serious condition if not dealt with while she's young. A school counselor is not really an expert or someone to rely solely on for advice. My daughter started when she was younger, and went one step further into eating the hair (Tricophagia).
I disagree on the medications as I truly believe that giving these children dangerous drugs that have not been tested thoroughly long term on kids isn't the way to go. Pulling the hair may cause infections, destroy the follicle, but doesn't warrant these prescriptions that can cause heart failure, kidney/liver damage, etc, etc.
Skip the psychiatrist, as they will push the drugs, and see a pediatric psychologist first, or if she has other issues you're noticing, maybe consider talking to your pediatrician for direction as there might be more involved here. There are some great homeopaths, naturapaths, that may also help along with the therapies. Do keep track of the artificial ingredients in her diet, chemicals, dyes, high fructose corn syrup will all cause behavioral problems, along with stress. My daughter is now on vitamin B along with a 'b complex vitamin' which has been helping. She's also been diagnosed with NLD, where obsessive behavior is part of. Don't try to self diagnose though, as she's too young for this. And, maybe there's more going on developmentally that needs to be addressed. Don't rely on the school system for diagnosis' or treatments, as they can help but are not really the experts on this. First you need an accurate diagnosis, (is she having other issues), then the natural remedies, which will not harm her.



answers from Chicago on

First, does the child want to stop pulling? For many children, they find this to be a soothing behavior. They can spend extended periods of time feeling the different hairs to determine which one is just the right one to pull. As strange as it seems, the pulling provides comfort. I definitely recommend professional help for managing any underlying anxiety issues. However, it is a very very hard habit to break. Some tricks we were recommended include always having something to keep your hands busy (stress ball, stretchy string to play with, latchhook kit, etc.) Also try rubber finger tips (they look like thimbles and you can get them at office supply stores.) Another recommendation we received was to fill a baggie with ice and hold it until the ice melted. This was to desensitive the fingers a bit and apparently delay the urge to pull until it was hopefully forgotten temporarily. I would discourage your friend from overemphasizing the physical appearance issues. Often sufferers don't like the way they look, but are unable to stop. Pointing out that they also don't look "normal" doesn't improve anxiety. The child may also migrate to arm/leg hair. You can shave the hair to remove the opportunity. However, it is virtually impossible to get every last hair, especially on a child, so that may just give them a remaining few to fixate on. We tried many many techniques with my daughter. Ultimately, she kicked the habit on her own once she decided that she didn't like the way she looked. Unfortunately there was no one silver bullet, but we do believe managing her anxiety better helped. Good luck to all involved.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter is 8 1/2 and we had a spell back in Oct/Nov where she was doing this exact same thing -- pulled out all her eyelashes and much of her eye brow hairs. I know that it is an OCD type behavior, I have a few of them myself. I have not taken my daughter to see a specialist, but we have spoken about it and I am working on it with her with good improvement. The first step for me was to find out when she was doing the pulling, since I never witnessed the behavior. She was pulling at night in the dark in her bed before she fell asleep. Many of these OCD behaviors are self soothing mechanisms. Once we identified the pulling situations, I tried to interrupt the cycle. We changed our bedtime routine some, and I made sure that she was getting enough exercise that she was absolutely exhausted at night. Then, we put on hand lotion and special gloves to help keep the lotion on. This made it hard to pull. Vaseline on the eyelashes and eyebrows can make them slippery enough that they are too hard to pull out and she will give up. The underlying source is anxiety of course -- in my daughter's case, if she reads something scary then she thinks about it at bedtime and it keeps her awake. Good luck with your friend -- I hope this helps.



answers from Chicago on

My sister has had this since she was about 11. This was long before the time of knowing what OCD's were. But it is that an OCD. My sister has done the counceling, medication and some alternative therapies. She does have hair again, but because of damage to the root system she still has places where there isn't any hair. I think the medication has worked the best for her, but in conjunction with meds, you may want to try therapy and accupuncture.
Good luck.



answers from Dallas on

I would highly suggest a psychologist with a specialty in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While I've never had the "hair pulling" compulsion, I do have OCD and dermatillomania, skin picking, and trichotillomania is part of the OCD spectrum. I was diagnosed at 18 and was immediately put on medication. I remained on medication with side-effects for twelve years before deciding to have a baby. At that time, I knew I wanted to be medication free during my pregnancy, and thankfully, I found an OCD counselor who helped me more than I could ever have imagined. I have been off medication for five years, now, and feel great. I regret that I was never offered intensive therapy instead of medication when I was younger.

Generally, the therapist will need to teach her to change her response to thought patterns and situations which result in hair pulling. They may also suggest something else to occupy her hands, such as knitting, rubik's cube, etc. although that could become compulsive, as well, but at least it won't be destructive.

Good luck, and just let her know, she is in no way alone, and there is help.

God bless!



answers from Boca Raton on

I agree with Martha that this is a serious issue which probably requires professional advice.

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