A Channel 4 documentary series featuring provocative work from up-and-coming directors has followed three women living with trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder that causes people to pull out their own hair, often to the point of baldness.
‘First Cut: Girls on the Pull’ is available to view online on Channel 4’s on demand service at http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4od
Trichotillomania affects up to 3% of people suffering from hair loss, and is ten times more common in women. It frequently starts around the onset of puberty, although it can affect any age group. Individuals will tug, twist or pull out their hair unconsciously or habitually, and stress, boredom or anxiety can act as triggers. Many will also chew or eat the hair, a condition known as trichophagia, and this can lead to digestive problems.
It is thought that hair pulling may come from a desire to exert control over one area of life. Hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy may help sufferers to learn how to interrupt the impulse and thereby overcome the condition.
Some people find that stimulants such as sugar, alcohol and caffeine increase the urge to hair pull, and reducing intake of these can make the physical urge more manageable. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that the amino acid NAC (N-acetylcysteine), which occurs naturally in foods such as chicken, eggs and broccoli, may help alleviate the condition, although more research is needed.
There is some evidence to suggest that there may be a genetic component to trichotillomania, as research has discovered that it is often found in families where members have other impulse control disorders such as OCD, addictions or Tourette’s syndrome.
People living with trichotillomania may choose to combine therapy with hair restoration treatment, to improve the appearance and boost self-confidence. If the hair follicles are still functional it is possible to promote regrowth, using clinically proven medications. At the Belgravia Centre we also find non-surgical hair replacement to be a very successful treatment for the condition, as it not only covers up the appearance of any bald patches but stops the sufferer from picking at the area, which can help to get the habit under control.
If you have any concerns about trichotillomania, or any other hair loss condition, we recommend you discuss it with one of our experienced specialists, who can assess your condition and recommend a suitable treatment programme. To book a free consultation, call 020 7730 6666 or send us a message with any enquiry you might have. Alternatively, if you can’t get to the London centre, you can complete the online diagnostic form and an advisor will be happy to contact you to discuss treatment options.