Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hair-pulling disorder

trich·o·til·lo·ma·ni·a (trĭk'ō-tĭl'ə-mā'nē-ə, -mān'yə). n.

Some definitions:

  • Dictionary: the compulsion to tear or pluck out the hair on one's head and face and often to ingest it.
  • Medical: a compulsion to pull out one's own hair.
  • WordNet: an irresistible urge to pull out your own hair.
What? Pulling your own hair (and ingest it)?

It came to my attention as a printed article on the Sun last week briefly discussed this type of disorder. Here's some of it:
Trichotillomania is a poorly understood disorder in which a person repeatedly pulls out his own hair, leading to visible hair loss. This disorder can have a crippling effect on the sufferers and treatment is rarely effective, notes a survey of patients with this condition.

“It has a much larger impact on people than I think even most mental health practitioners understand,” says lead author Dr. Douglas W. Woods, of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. “A lot of people will look at this and say it’s just a nervous habit, but it’s not really.”

I would seriously think this is just a nervous habit. In fact, I can't recall I saw anyone that I know of show the symptom of trichotillomania as defined above. Not until I found the definition of Trichotillomania from Wikipedia.
Trichotillomania (TTM) or "trich" is an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, beard hair, nose hair, pubic hair, eyebrows or other body hair. It may be distantly related to obsessive-compulsive disorder, with which it shares some similarities.
So it's really about pulling many types of body hair. Now I can see why the study says up to 3.4% adults may suffer from this disorder. I think the number should be even higher. I can now recall some people doing it regularly.

Perhaps we need to worry about this not only because its negative effect on health (e.g. fatal balls of hair in the stomach), but also because it's disgusting.

Yes, because it's also disgusting...