Trichotillomania: What Do We Know So Far?

Daniel Fernandes Melo, Caren dos Santos Lima, Bianca Maria Piraccini, Antonella Tosti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Trichotillomania is defined as an obsessive-compulsive or related disorder in which patients recurrently pull out hair from any region of their body. The disease affects mainly female patients, who often deny the habit, and it usually presents with a bizarre pattern nonscarring patchy alopecia with short hair and a negative pull test. Trichoscopy can reveal the abnormalities resulting from the stretching and fracture of hair shafts, and biopsy can be necessary if the patient or parents have difficulties in accepting the self-inflicted nature of a trichotillomania diagnosis. Trichotillomania requires a comprehensive treatment plan and interdisciplinary approach. Physicians should always have a nonjudgmental, empathic, and inviting attitude toward the patient. Behavioral therapy has been used with success in the treatment of trichotillomania, but not all patients are willing or able to comply with this treatment strategy. Pharmacotherapy can be necessary, especially in adolescents and adult patients. Options include tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and glutamate-modulating agents. Glutamate-modulating agents such as N-acetylcysteine are a good first-line option due to significant benefits and low risk of side effects. Physicians must emphasize that the role of psychiatry-dermatology liaison is extremely necessary with concurrent support services for the patient and parents, in case of pediatric patients. In pediatric cases, parents should be advised and thoroughly educated that negative feedback and punishment for hair pulling are not going to produce positive results. Social support is a significant pillar to successful habit reversal training; therefore, physicians must convey the importance of familial support to achieving remission. This is a review article that aims to discuss the literature on trichotillomania, addressing etiology, historical aspects, clinical and trichoscopic features, main variants, differential diagnosis, diagnostic clues, and psychological and pharmacological management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalSkin Appendage Disorders
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Alopecia
  • Hair pulling
  • Impulse-control disorder
  • Trichotillomania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

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