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06-16 Hair pulling tendencies in adolescents may be sign of trichotillomania

Hair pulling tendencies in adolescents may be sign of trichotillomania

Adolescence is marked by constant pangs of anxiety and fear of the unknown especially the uncertain future that lies ahead. Nervousness and insecurity are common this phase described as the transition between childhood and adulthood. Factors like hormonal changes, peer pressure, social acceptance and changing roles in the family can make some adolescents more susceptible to the complexities of this stage.

Not all adolescents respond to the internal conflicts in a similar manner; there are some who feel more stressed out than others. In such a situation, some adolescents might develop emotional disorders like trichotillomania (TTM), a mental condition associated with the recurring and excessive pulling of one’s own hair that in turn may result in a large amount of hair loss. At the onset of the disorder, teenagers may exhibit moderate levels of impairment in social and academic abilities. In addition, the disease may disrupt normal family functioning too.

Understanding causes of TTM

Common among adolescents and children, TTM is an impulse control disorder which causes one to constantly pull out one’s hair. Though hair pulling behavior involves those body regions in which the hair grow, the most affected parts are usually the scalp, eyebrows and eyelids. Most people with this disorder reported being at ease with themselves and informed that hair pulling provided the necessary relief from tension.

Science has not been able to unravel the roots of this disorder. Clinicians categorize it as a kind of mental health problem. Some of the causes behind this problem being genetics, increasing levels of stress or some disturbance in the system involving one of the chemical messengers between the nerve cells in various parts of the brain. Previous studies had revealed that adolescents afflicted with anxiety and depression or who were academically and socially impaired were more likely to show signs of TTM.

Some common signs of TTM are:

  • Repeated pulling out one’s hair, resulting in sizeable hair loss
  • Extreme feelings of tension prior to pulling out of the hair or while resisting the proclivity to do so
  • Feelings of pleasure or relief after pulling out hair
  • Most people fail to realize that it is a serious mental health disorder and hence do not find the need to seek necessary expert advice
  • Myriad kinds of behaviors are associated with hair pulling tendencies. For example, the affected may look for a particular kind of hair to pull or use some specific tactic to pull out the hair. The affected also show a tendency to swallow the hair or bite it into pieces.

Adolescents suffering from TTM also have low self-esteem, distorted body image and problems in maintaining relationships with peers. As most people do not understand that timely treatment can rid one of the disorder, TTM patients are subjected to ridicule that may result in long-term development problems.

Treating mental illnesses

Clinicians recommend cognitive behavioral therapy to the TTM patients apart from pharmacological methods of treatment. The road to recovery from any kind of emotional disorder problem may be difficult but not completely impossible.

At the Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego, the Mental Health Program for adolescents helps youth overcome all kinds of mental disorders, including stress, anxiety or co-occurring disorders linked to psychological distress. Health care practitioners customize treatment for trichotillomania in teens keeping in mind the specific needs of every patient. They also educate them about various coping mechanisms and stress management methods. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online for more information about the various trichotillomania treatment centers in your vicinity.

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