Signs and symptoms of trichotillomania often include:
- Repeatedly pulling your hair out, typically from your scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes, but can be from other body areas, and sites may vary over time
- An increasing sense of tension before pulling, or when you try to resist pulling
- A sense of pleasure or relief after the hair is pulled
- Shortened hair or thinned or bald areas on the scalp or other areas of your body, including sparse or missing eyelashes or eyebrows
- Preference for specific types of hair, rituals that accompany hair pulling or patterns of hair pulling
- Biting, chewing or eating pulled-out hair
- Playing with pulled-out hair or rubbing it across your lips or face
Most people who have trichotillomania also will pick their skin, bite their nails or chew their lips. Sometimes pulling hairs from pets or dolls or from materials, such as clothes or blankets, may be a sign. Most people with trichotillomania pull hair in private and generally try to hide the disorder from others.
For people with trichotillomania, hair pulling can be:
- Focused. Some people pull their hair intentionally to relieve tension or distress — for example, pulling hair out to get relief from the overwhelming urge to pull hair. Some people may develop elaborate rituals for pulling hair, such as finding just the right hair or biting pulled hairs.
- Automatic. Some people pull their hair without even realizing they're doing it, such as when they're bored, reading or watching TV.
The same person may do both focused and automatic hair pulling, depending on the situation and mood. Certain positions or rituals may trigger hair pulling, such as resting your head on your hand or brushing your hair.
Trichotillomania is a long-term (chronic) disorder. Without treatment, symptoms can vary in severity over time. For example, the hormonal changes of menstruation can worsen symptoms in women. For some people, if not treated, symptoms can come and go for weeks, months or years at a time. Rarely, hair pulling ends within a few years of starting.