Hair pulling is a relatively common disorder in the general population. This agonizing disorder is more common in females and is often associated with an obsessive compulsive personality. Current estimates indicate that at least 2 million adult Americans over the age of 20 have this disorder.
There are countless more individuals who have not been diagnosed or are too shy to visit a physician. Despite being aware about this disorder for decades, the treatment for hair pulling, or trichotillomania, has not been very satisfactory. Over the years, countless treatments have come and gone. Today, pharmacological drug therapy and behavior alterations are the mainstay of treatment but have limited success.
Recently, a paper published in the Archives of General Psychiatry offers new hope for patients who suffer from trichotillomania. In a small trial involving 50 individuals, it was observed that those who took the health supplement, N-acetyl cysteine, had marked improvement of symptoms after only 12 weeks. N-acetyl cysteine used in the study was obtained in a pill form from health food stores like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe.
If these studies do hold up, then this may herald a potentially new treatment for this disturbing disorder.
Why people pull hair remains a puzzle and there are countless theories. The bottom line is that chronic hair pulling is a diversion from a stressful situation, which eventually turns into addictive psychological relief. The majority of individuals not only pull hair from the scalp but also from other parts of the body. At least 20 percent of individuals even eat their hair and a very few minority pull other people’s hair. While hair pulling sounds painful, most trichotillomanics claim that it provides a calming feeling and relief from the acute anxiety.