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Does Trichotillomania Have a Relationship with Anxiety

The relationship between Trichotillomania and Anxiety

Trichotillomania, also known as compulsive hair pulling, is triggered by various factors. This disorder involves pulling hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair from other body parts, which leads to hair thinning and hair loss. However, many people suffering from this condition have a neurological-based tendency to pull hair. This repetitive behavior works as a self-soothing system that helps them keep calm when they feel anxious or stressed.

The Relationship between Anxiety and trichotillomania

Compulsive hair pulling and anxiety are strongly correlated. Though the relationship between trichotillomania and anxiety is not well understood scientifically, there is denying that the two share a close relationship. Anxiety serves as one of the common reasons for hair pulling, in one way or another. Only more scientific research and time will certainly make the relationship between anxiety and trichotillomania clearer.

There are many healthy ways to spend stress-energy and then there are other ways that are not so healthy. A lot of people suffering from compulsive hair pulling connect their pulling behavior with anxiety. A study revealed that from a total of 894 people dealing with trichotillomania, 84 percent said that anxiety is the reason for compulsive hair pulling disorder. Other people told that hair pulling gets even worse once anxiety increases.

One reason for the worsening of hair pulling disorder with increased anxiety is that hair pulling relieves tension and stress. When a person is anxious, the tension in the body increases. The slight pain that a person feels while pulling hair out and the prompt feeling of release, may help people with trichotillomania to discharge stress energy. Being a focused habit, compulsive hair pulling also acts as a mindful activity, where a person concentrates on the activity at hand to dissipate the anxiety.

Another explanation for the increased urges to pull hair with increased anxiety is that anxiety hinders the ability of a person to control impulses. Without anxiety serving as a cognitive intrusion, the brain can be learned to control impulsive habits through therapies such as Habit reversal training. Think of increased anxiety as a “white noise” becoming louder in your brain. When the noise becomes louder, the brain will have less energy to make decisions. Thus, the impulse control mechanism turns out to be masked by the “white noise.”

The exact reason for compulsive hair pulling is not known. In reality, the condition may not have a single origin, instead, a group of potential triggers, both concrete and nebulous. The only known thing is that trichotillomania mostly develops in connection with anxiety and many professionals understand trichotillomania as an abnormal attempt to deal with psychological distress. Lots of people use hair pulling habit as a mechanism to overcome negative feelings such as anxiety.

People with such conditions have an extremely hard time overcoming difficult emotions without doing self-soothing habits. Pulling hair out doesn’t hurt people with this disorder. Moreover, many of those with trichotillomania are not trying to hurt or damage themselves. In contrast, they are attempting to make themselves less stressed out and feel better.


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