People with trichotillomania, also called trichotillosis, are unable to stop themselves from pulling out their hair or twisting it until it breaks. Many experts classify it as an obsessive-compulsive disorder or type of self-harm or self-mutilation. People suffering from the disorder often experience a rising sense of anxiety or tension just before the action occurs. Afterward, as with some other impulsive disorders, patients may have feelings of relief.
It occurs most often in young people and may resolve on its own as the child develops, but can also occur in adulthood. People with trichotillomania will begin to show signs of hair loss in strange patches or patterns as children or young adults, and may deny that they are pulling out their hair. Patterns of baldness can result, causing anxiety and avoidance of social situation. The behavior may also occur simultaneously with other self-harming actions. The disorder is believed to affect around 11 million people in the U.S., typically females more than males. The Trichotillomania Learning Center has resources and more information on this baffling disorder.