Trichotillomania and Excoriation: Distress Turned on the Body

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Trichotillomania and Excoriation: Distress Turned on the Body

Have you heard phrases like “I’m so stressed I’m tearing my hair out” or similar sentiments? What about images of people looking upset and grasping their hair? Often, such comments and depictions are facetious representations of stress. However, in rare cases, people literally pull out their hair.

Trichotillomania disorder and excoriation disorders are two illnesses in which people use their body to alleviate emotions such as anxiety, stress, tension, a need for control, or sometimes even boredom. Trichotillomania is the compulsive pulling out of one’s hair (especially scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes), while excoriation is compulsive skin picking (particularly face, arms, and hands).

These disorders share characteristics:

  • They’re classified as obsessive-compulsive and related disorders (they involve compulsions—repetitive behaviors—but not obsessions)
  • The behavior is repetitive, done either sporadically throughout the day or done in bursts that can last hours at a time
  • Hair pulling or skin picking can be ritualistic—there is a specific method, time, setting, etc. for the behavior
  • Alternately, some people aren’t even fully aware that they’re doing it
  • People try to stop but are unable to do so without help

Experts disagree on whether these disorders should be considered an act of self-harm. Self-harm or not, trichotillomania and excoriation are distressing. Professional help is often needed, but people can overcome them.

Related Articles Dealing Trichotillomania and Excoriation

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Today's Question: If you’ve ever engaged in hair pulling or skin picking, what have you done to manage it? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, experience, and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page and on the HealthyPlace Google+ page.

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From HealthyPlace YouTube Channel

I'm Hannah. I Have Bipolar 2

Bipolar Hypomania: What It's Really Like

A major part of living with bipolar 2 disorder is experiencing hypomanic episodes. (Individuals who live with bipolar 1 disorder experience manic episodes.) Bipolar hypomania is described as an elevated mood, hyperactivity, distractibility, and feelings that cause you to be restless and irritated at times.(Watch Hannah)


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  2. What Are Your Reasons to Recover from Self-Harm?
  3. Moving Past Shame After Abuse in PTSD Recovery

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2018, May 21). Trichotillomania and Excoriation: Distress Turned on the Body, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: June 5, 2018

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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