These factors tend to increase the risk of trichotillomania:

  • Family history. Genetics may play a role in the development of trichotillomania, and the disorder may occur in those who have a close relative with the disorder.
  • Age. Trichotillomania usually develops just before or during the early teens — most often between the ages of 11 and 13 — and is often a lifelong problem. Infants also can be prone to hair pulling, but this is usually mild and goes away on its own without treatment.
  • Negative emotions. For many people with trichotillomania, hair pulling is a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, anxiety, tension, loneliness, fatigue or frustration.
  • Positive reinforcement. People with trichotillomania often find that pulling out hair feels satisfying and provides a measure of relief. As a result, they continue to pull their hair to maintain these positive feelings.
  • Other disorders. People who have trichotillomania may also have other disorders, such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Although far more women than men are treated for trichotillomania, this may be because women are more likely to seek medical advice. In early childhood, boys and girls appear to be equally affected.

Feb. 13, 2014