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ICD-10 F63.3
ICD-9 312.39
DiseasesDB 29681
MedlinePlus 001517

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Kiran Singh, M.D. [2]

Synonyms and Keywords: Hair-pulling; trich; trichologia; trichomania; trichotillosis;TTM


Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, facial hair, nose hair, pubic hair, eyebrows or other body hair. Trichotillomania is classified in the DSM-IV as an impulse control disorder that is not elsewhere classified under another axis or disorder. It is classified in this manner to control diagnoses of TTM. It is an Axis I disorder. The name derives from Greek tricho- (hair), + mania.

Historical Perspective

Trichotillomania was described clinically for the first time by a French physician, Francois Hallopeau, in 1889.[1]

Differential Diagnosis

  • Another medical condition
  • Neuro-developmental disorders

Epidemiology and Demographics


The prevalence of trichotillomania is 1,000-2,000 per 100,000 (1%-2%) of the overall population.[2] The number of reported trichotillomania cases has increased throughout the years, possibly due to a reduced stigma around the condition.


Sixty-five percent of those afflicted are female.[3]

Risk Factors

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis

Individuals with trichotillomania can live relatively normal lives; however, they may have bald spots on their head, among their eyelashes, pubic hair, or brows. An additional psychological effect can be low self-esteem, often associated with being shunned by peers and the fear of socializing due to appearance and negative attention they may receive. Some people with TTM wear hats, wigs or style their hair in an effort to avoid such attention. For many there seems to be a strong stress-related component. In low-stress environments, some exhibit no symptoms (known as 'pulling') whatsoever. This 'pulling' often resumes upon leaving this environment.[6]

Many clinicians classify TTM as a habit behavior, in the same family as nail biting (onychophagia) or compulsive skin picking (dermatillomania). These disorders are a cross between mental disorders, such as OCD obsessive compulsive disorder because the sight or feel of a body part causes the individual anxiety, and physical disorders such as Stereotypic Movement Disorder because the person performs repetitive movements without being bothered by or completely aware of them. The current classification of trich as an impulse disorder with pyromania, pathological gambling and kleptomania, has been called into question as inadequate and in need of revision.[7] People with TTM are no more likely to have significant personality disorders than anyone else.[citation needed] One study showed that individuals with TTM have decreased cerebellar volume.[8] Like people with other OCD-related disorders (for example, body dysmorphic disorder, impulse control disorder, kleptomania, Tourette's syndrome), people with TTM have a reduced ability to transport serotonin at the presynaptic level.[9] Anxiety, depression, as well as frank OCDs are more frequently encountered in people with TTM.[10] People with TTM may also eat/chew the roots of the hair that they pull, referred to as trichophagia. In extreme cases this can lead to Rapunzel syndrome, and even death.[11][12][13] Some individuals with TTM may feel they are the only person with this problem due to low rates of reportage.[3]


DSM-V Diagnostic Criteria for Trichotillomania[2]

  • A. Recurrent pulling out of one’s hair, resulting in hair loss.


  • B. Repeated attempts to decrease or stop hair pulling.


  • C. The hair pulling causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


  • D. The hair pulling or hair loss is not attributable to another medical condition (e.g., a dermatological condition).


  • E. The hair pulling is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., attempts to improve a perceived defect or flaw in appearance in body dysmorphic disorder).

Physical Examination




Trichotillomania is a chronic problem, meaning that although one can recover from it, there is currently no cure. It can be stubborn, but with proper treatment and persistence, picking and/or pulling hairs can be greatly reduced and even brought under control (often called "hibernation"). Clinicians who are specialized in treating this problem are not always easy to find, but do have the techniques and training to bring about substantial improvement.

Behavioral Therapy

Habit Reversal Training or HRT, has been shown to be a successful adjunct to pharmacotherapy as a way to treat TTM.[15] HRT was developed by Dr. Prasandy Azrin and colleagues and first published in 1973 in an article titled Habit Reversal: A Method of Eliminating Nervous Habits and Tics. The treatment focused on getting patients to increase their awareness of their behavior by recording and learning as much as possible about when, where, and how it occurred, and how to know ahead of time when it would occur. They were next trained to focus on, and reduce the tension that preceded the pulling. Finally, they were taught to perform a muscular movement that was inconspicuous, that was the opposite of and incompatible with the behavior they wished to eliminate. Many patients who pull their hair don’t realize that they are doing this; it is a conditioned response.[citation needed] With Habit Reversal Training, doctors train the individual to learn to recognize their impulse to pull and also teach them to redirect this impulse. As a part of the behavioral record-keeping component of HRT, patients are often instructed to keep a journal of their hair-pulling episodes. They may be asked to record the date, time, location, and number of hairs pulled, as well what they are thinking or feeling at the time. This can help the patient learn to identify situations where they commonly pull out their hair and develop strategies for avoiding episodes.

Medical Therapy

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are effective in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and are commonly used in the treatment of trichotillomania. Clomipramine treatment was shown to significantly improve symptoms when tested in a doubled-blind study.[16] Clinical trials for other drugs such as fluoxetine, and lithium have not shown to be effective.

Fluoxetine and other similar drugs, which some professionals prescribe on a one-size-fits-all basis, tend to have limited usefulness in treating TTM, and can often have significant side effects.[citation needed] According to F. Penzel, antidepressants can even increase the severity of the TTM.[7]


  1. Hallopeau M (1889). "Alopicie par grattage (trichomanie ou trichotillomanie)". Ann Dermatol Venereol. 10: 440–441.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 0890425558.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Christenson GA, MacKenzie TB, Mitchell JE (1994). "Adult men and women with trichotillomania. A comparison of male and female characteristics". Psychosomatics. 35 (2): 142–9. PMID 8171173.
  4. EntrezGene (12-Aug-2006). "Gene" (UTF-8). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. "Hair pulling disorder gene found". Retrieved 2007-05-01.
  6. Christenson GA, Mackenzie TB, Mitchell JE (1991). "Characteristics of 60 adult chronic hair pullers". The American journal of psychiatry. 148 (3): 365–70. PMID 1992841.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Penzel (2003) The Hair-Pulling Problem: A Complete Guide to Trichotillomania; Oxford University Press, p. 3. ISBN 0-19-514942-4
  8. Keuthen NJ, Makris N, Schlerf JE; et al. (2007). "Evidence for reduced cerebellar volumes in trichotillomania". Biol. Psychiatry. 61 (3): 374–81. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.06.013. PMID 16945351.
  9. Marazziti D, Dell'Osso L, Presta S; et al. (1999). "Platelet [3H]paroxetine binding in patients with OCD-related disorders". Psychiatry research. 89 (3): 223–8. PMID 10708268.
  10. Christenson GA, Crow SJ (1996). "The characterization and treatment of trichotillomania". The Journal of clinical psychiatry. 57 Suppl 8: 42–7, discussion 48-9. PMID 8698680. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  11. Ventura DE, Herbella FA, Schettini ST, Delmonte C (2005). "Rapunzel syndrome with a fatal outcome in a neglected child". J. Pediatr. Surg. 40 (10): 1665–7. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2005.06.038. PMID 16227005.
  12. Pul N, Pul M (1996). "The Rapunzel syndrome (trichobezoar) causing gastric perforation in a child: a case report". Eur. J. Pediatr. 155 (1): 18–9. PMID 8750804.
  13. "Hairball kills teenager". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 "Dermatology Atlas".
  15. Woods DW, Wetterneck CT, Flessner CA (2006). "A controlled evaluation of acceptance and commitment therapy plus habit reversal for trichotillomania". Behaviour research and therapy. 44 (5): 639–56. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2005.05.006. PMID 16039603.
  16. Swedo SE, Leonard HL, Rapoport JL, Lenane MC, Goldberger EL, Cheslow DL (1989). "A double-blind comparison of clomipramine and desipramine in the treatment of trichotillomania (hair pulling)". N. Engl. J. Med. 321 (8): 497–501. PMID 2761586.