Behavioural therapy and trichotillomania

What is trichotillomania?

Hair thinning and hair loss is a very common problem for the modern society. Nowadays more people than ever tend to lose their hair. There are many reasons why hair problems emerge, some of them are related to physical illnesses or genetics, yet others are directly connected to your mental state. Interestingly, hair thinning, hair loss and baldness have been recently researched by scientists, who concluded that the most common cause of sporadic hair-issues is stress and exposure to anxious situations. Think for example of cases such as alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease which makes your own immune system attack your hair cells. Another example of stress related hair loss problem is trichotillomania.

Trichotillomania is a control disorder during which people feel the irresistible need to pull out their own hair. The urge to pull out hair mainly surfaces during the exposure to stress, anxiety or depression. In such instances the habit of pulling out hair helps to relieve stress and improves the persons mood and well-being. Trichotillomania is a compulsive disorder during which people are aware of their problems and know very well that they’re causing damage through relieving themselves. However, even such awareness doesn’t make them stop. Since trichotillomania is a psychologically induced illness, its treatment methods mostly rely on psychological and behavioural therapies.

Behavioural therapy

Behavioural therapy often serves as a treatment method for trichotillomania, and in this case is often called habit-reverse therapy. This type of behaviour therapy relies mostly on exploring cognitive therapies and formation of habits. Generally, the basic and most effective treatment method through behaviour therapy for trichotillomania is to substitute a negative, harmful habit with another risk-free alternative. So, in terms of trichotillomania it means that the harmful habit of pulling out hair needs to be replaced with another routine practice that’s not harmful, but it also serves as stress relief. In practice this means that when we eventually face a stressful/anxous situation, and the urge arrives, we need to find a method that could serve us the same amount of stress relief/satisfaction as the action of pulling out hair. A lot of doctors and psychologists recommend special behavioural therapy visits that could establish the main substitution source for a particular patient. It’s important to mention that every individual will have their own way of coping with the problem, in the end we all relieve ourselves differently. Some of the most common substitutions are: use of stress balls, physical activities, use of special online programmes etc. We need to remember that the use of behavioural therapy to treat trichotillomania may sound simple, but in actual practice its actually quite a complex process. After all, the main issue does not relate to finding a substitution method, but rather relates to the struggle of actually willing to commit to this substitution. If you are a smoker, or enjoy a daily coffee, you’ll know very well that it’s never easy to replace your habits (e.g. by vaping or drinking tea instead). Completely getting rid of such habits is an even greater issue. However, with willingness and a suitable approach, everything is possible.

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