Although “Trichotillomania” might sound like a type of spider, it’s actually an obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes kids to pull their hair out.

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Kids with trichotillomania have an overwhelming urge to repeatedly pull out their hair. To relieve this urge, they twist, rub, or pull out their hair by the roots.

While ripping one’s hair out might not sound all that soothing, it can be calming for some children. In fact, some kids do it so much that they develop bald spots.

Although most kids with trichotillomania pull out the hair on their scalp, some kiddos prefer to pull out their eyelashes or the hair on their eyebrows, instead. And certain kids do both. A small minority of kids with trichotillomania find comfort in chewing or swallowing the hair they’ve pulled out.

What Do the Trichotillomania Bald Patches Look Like?

The bald spots contain hairs of varying length (as shown in the pic below):

Image Source: Pediatrics in Review

Clue: The bald areas are typically on the same side as the child’s dominant hand.

How is Trichotillomania Managed?

The best initial course of action is to ignore the behavior (even if it makes you want to pull your OWN hair out). Why? Because Trichotillomania is a compulsive behavior that will only get worse if you call attention to it. Children can’t help it, so yelling at them doesn’t work, either.

If the habit leads to bald patches or interferes with your child’s daily life, psychotherapy (namely cognitive behavioral therapy) can help. As with other compulsive behaviors, kids can learn tools to help them control the urge to pull out their hair.

In rare cases, medications such an anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are used (alongside cognitive behavioral therapy) to treat the trichotillomania.

The Bottom Line

Although trichotillomania is a relatively benign condition, it can be a source of embarrassment for kids if they develop bald patches because of it. If your child frequently pulls out his/her hair, to the point that it’s causing cosmetic issues, let the doctor know.