Every day I call my mom and we talk about how our lives are going. Today, I angered my mother when I told her I DESPERATELY needed her help with an idea to write about for my last and final science blog. “Courtney, I don’t know! I’m not good at science!” “But mom, you don’t understand, this is a different kind of science! Like, fun science! (@Andrew)” “Ugh! That doesn’t even make sense, honey! Really. You make me want to pull my hair out!” Ding ding. A light immediately went off my in my head. “Hair pulling,” I thought. “Is that really a thing?”
Yes. Hair pulling is actually a real issue. After research, I’ve found that there actually is a disease that is characterized by an individual pulling out their own hair follicles. Trichotillomania, as it is named, is related to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and ” is a disorder that causes people to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic area, underarms, beard, chest, legs or other parts of the body, resulting in noticeable bald patches,” states trich.org. Evolving mostly from stress, this disease seems like it is only detrimental to one’s physical appearance. However, I questioned, is it harmful to the body? The answer? 100%. “When hair is pulled from the same place, it not only damages the hair follicle (causing stunted or abnormal regrowth) but also the skin. Damage in the form of irritation, inflammation, and even infection to the skin are common symptoms of trichotillomania to watch out for,” according to TrichStop. Repeated and long term pulling can also lead to permanent hair loss in that certain area. The causes of hair pulling and hair pulling itself can often be interchangeable. As explained by TrichStop, individuals who pull their hair may do so because of anxiety or stress. However, some may develop anxiety after pulling their hair out because of the constant worry that someone may notice their re-occuring bald spot. Trichotillomania has also been sited to cause depression.
Though only 1% of Americans will experience this illness, it is prominent in young adults who are about to face the many stresses of hormone increase and body changes. “A 2007 article in the American Journal of psychiatry reports that females tend to outnumber males by 3 to 1 among adults, with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) citing an overall female predominance of 10-1.” TrichStop again reports that 60% of people who suffer from trichotillomania also suffered from “another current psychiatric disorder.”
This disorder, sometimes, does not stop at pulling. Trichophagia occurs when patients pull their hair out and then eat it. This portion of the illness is said to stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. With trichophagia, hairballs in the digestive tract often occur due to the human bodies’ inability to digest hair follicles. Trichobezoars, as they are referred to, can clog the intestines and become deadly if not removed. Healthyplace.com reported that 5-20% of trichotillomania patients suffer from trichophagia.
So, yes, to be so stressed to pull one’s hair out is a real thing and it has also proved to be VERY unsafe.