Many people haven’t heard of Trichophagia, and even for those who have, understanding this psychological disorder can be a challenge. Today we take a look at the symptoms of Trichophagia and the best options for treatment.
What are the signs or symptoms?
Trichophagia refers to the compulsive eating of hair, and usually occurs alongside hair pulling (Trichotillomania). Those affected by the condition usually target their own hair, pulling out strands or patches and eating the ends; although sometimes the hair shaft will be consumed too. Hair can build up in the gastrointestinal tract and often causes pain and indigestion. The condition is based around ritual, and chewing or touching the hair is a big part of this. Sometimes those affected may even eat other people’s hair.
Complications of Trichophagia
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported the story of an 18 year old woman who visited her doctor with symptoms including weight loss, vomiting and abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with Trichophagia which had obviously been affecting her for several years. Her stomach was blocked by a bezoar (a 10 pound mass of black, curly hair) and she had to undergo emergency surgery to remove this. Whilst this is a rather unusual and extreme story, eating your hair can cause a whole range of problems including gum disease, gastrointestinal blockage or tearing, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and diarrhoea.
Trichophagia and Trichotillomania are considered to be psychological disorders, so it is recommended that anyone who thinks they are experiencing symptoms makes an appointment with a psychiatrist, for diagnosis and treatment. A cognitive approach to therapy is usually taken, to help to break the rituals associated with the condition and lessen the compulsion to pull and eat the hair.
Because Trichophagia can be so damaging to hair, often leaving those affected with bald patches and thinning hair, it is also a good idea to visit a hair loss specialist as soon as possible. Your hair follicles could be damaged in the long-term if the condition is left untreated, so addressing the areas affected with a personalised hair loss treatment plan can help hair to grow back, providing your follicles are still functioning. If Trichophagia is left untreated for several years, symptoms can worsen, causing damage to hair follicles and irreversible scarring.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our online diagnostic form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our hair loss success stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 0800 077 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.