It is common for children and adolescents to play with their hair. However, frequent or obsessive hair pulling can lead to serious problems. The medical term for severe hair pulling is trichotillomania.
What is Trichotillomania?
People with trichotillomania pull hair on various parts of their bodies, including the scalp, face, arms, legs and pubic areas. They may not notice the hair pulling until they need to cover up bald patches. People with trichotillomania are typically not able stop pulling their hair without support – shaming and reminding is not effective.
Who is Affected by Trichotillomania?
In young children and infants, it’s usually a short-lived concern and goes away on its own. The more serious form most commonly starts between ages 10 and 13. In children, it happens equally between men and women. In adults, women outnumber men with this condition by as much as 9 to 1.
What Causes Trichotillomania?
The cause of trichotillomania is not known, but it has been associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, stress, and other behavioral health and neurodevelopmental conditions. For some children and youth, trichotillomania becomes damaging and very difficult to control. It can occur anytime, but may become worse in stressful situations.
How to Help Children and Teens with Hair-Pulling
If you are concerned about your child or teen’s hair-pulling behavior, talk with your family physician or pediatrician. They may be able to evaluate your child or refer you to an appropriate treatment provider in your area. Effective treatment is available and may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, and/or support groups.
To learn more about Trichotillomania in Children and Teens, visit the AACAP site below: