Trichotillomania: understand the disorder of pulling out body hair in stressful situations


Dermatologist Ana Paula Vitti explains the causes of the disease (Photo: Wenderson Cabral/FolhaBV)

The constant urge to pull out hair and hair in other areas of the body in stressful moments is known as trichotillomania. According to dermatologist Ana Paula Vitti, the condition is related to anxiety and emotional issues, such as depression, low self-esteem and past traumas.

The doctor reported that, in addition to causing pain, trichotillomania can result in infections and dermatological lesions in the region where hair is pulled out, as is the case with alopecia. From the moment the follicle is pulled, she stated that it is never recovered naturally.



The diagnosis of the syndrome must be made by a dermatologist. However, to treat the patient, the specialist emphasizes the importance of psychological support to effectively stop the disease.

“Treatment involves medication in some cases and a lot of conversation to get straight to the cause of the problem. We always refer to a psychologist, he will take care of the patient’s emotional aspect,” she explained.

Psychologist Julia Arnaud states that anxiety can contribute significantly to the severity of trichotillomania (Photo: Nilzete Franco/Folha BV)

According to psychologist Júlia Arnaud, trichotillomania can also be developed due to genetic factors, if there is a family history of the syndrome, and the need for control over life situations. The professional comments on cases in which the disease appears as a coping mechanism and is associated with emotional relief.

“This mechanism is a cognitive behavioral effort to deal with harmful situations. It is an inadequate way to deal with difficult moments, traumas or stressful events in a person’s life. In the case of association, the brain may learn to connect the action of hair pulling with reduced emotional discomfort,” she said.

The therapist stated that anxiety can contribute significantly to the severity of trichotillomania and defines the relationship between the two as “complex”. According to her, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can activate triggers for hair-pulling behavior or reinforce it, which makes treatment difficult.

Júlia recalled a patient’s case of trichotillomania. Diagnosed with anxiety, she had left an abusive relationship and moved to another city. The psychologist explained that the patient developed the syndrome as a coping mechanism.

“The process of working through the traumas that involved the relationship and the difficulty of being in a new city, starting life over, generated a lot of anxiety and she ended up associating the behavior of pulling out the hair with relief, even though she knew it wasn’t healthy. . It ends up being an automatic behavior, when the patient realized it she was already doing it”, she commented.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Trichotillomania understand disorder pulling body hair stressful situations



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