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Contemporary Parenting Questions


Last updated on 08/20/08

What should I do if my child is pulling out his or her hair?

Trichotillomania (TTM) is an impulse disorder that causes people to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other parts of the body, resulting in noticeable bald patches. It is currently defined as an impulse-control disorder, but there are still questions about how it should be classified. It may seem at times to resemble a habit, addiction, tic disorder or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is estimated to affect one to two percent of the population, or four to eleven million Americans.

TTM seems to strike most frequently in the pre- or early adolescent years. The typical first-time hair puller is 12 years old, although TTM has affected people as young as one year old and as old as seventy. It is thought that ninety percent of those with TTM are women, but research is inconclusive and it may simply be the case that men are less likely to seek treatment and can more easily hide their symptoms. A form of TTM that affects very young children appears to occur in males and females at an equal rate and seems to be more benign in nature.

Although the symptoms range greatly in severity, location on the body and response to treatment, most people with TTM pull enough hair over a long enough period of time that they have bald spots on their heads (or missing eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic, or underarm hair), which they go to great lengths to cover with hairstyles, scarves or clothing, and makeup. The persistence of the compulsion can vary considerably: For some people, at times it is mild and can be quelled with a bit of extra awareness and concentration. For others, the urge may be so strong that it makes thinking of anything else nearly impossible.

In The Jewish Community:

It may be easy to live in denial and believe that these disorders just exist in the “outside world”, but the facts have proven that the Jewish community is not immune. The 1-2% statistic may very well include a friend, a child in your daughter’s class, or a neighbor. In an average Bais Yaakov high school with fifty students in a grade, it is likely that two to four girls suffer from TTM. Those with TTM in the Jewish community do not suffer alone.

Use the following links to educate yourself about Trichotillomania in children and how to identify if your child has a problem. Learn how to talk to your child about their disorder and find them the help they need.

Frequently Asked Links:

What is Trichotillomania? more

Are there any other forms of self-mutilation? more

By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

How can Trichotillomania be treated?

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy more

2. Medication

3. Alternative Therapy more

How can I find a treatment provider? more

How can I find a mentor for my child?

A program of Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

What can I do to help my child?

Where can I find books that will me learn more about Trichotillomania?

Where can I find resources for my child to learn about Trichotillomania? more more

How can my child get free items such as wigs or hats to help them with their hair loss? more more more

Are there any current research studies about Trichotillomania?

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Going to a Therapist

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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The Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC)

TLC is the only organization completely devoted to helping people with Trichotillomania.

National Mental Health Association (NMHA)
NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research, and service.

American Psychological Association (APA)
The APA provides information and education about a variety of mental health issues for people of all ages.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)
The ADAA promotes the prevention and cure of anxiety disorders and works to improve the lives of all people who have them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation (OCF)
OCF educates the public and professional communities about OCD and related disorders, provides assistance to families, and supports research of the causes and effective treatments of these disorders.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIMH offers information about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses, and supports research to help those with mental illness.

Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Southern California

Rodney P. Boone, Ph.D., Director

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