How is trichotillomania diagnosed?
Patients of trichotillomania most often approach their primary physicians for their problems of hair thinning or alopecia. Primary physicians usually rule out all the causes of hair loss before referring such patients suspected of trichotillomania to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The psychiatrist or psychologist takes a proper medical history of the patient and looks for signs that point toward the diagnosis of trichotillomania. Blood tests may only be done to cancel out diseases that may cause hair loss.
Can trichotillomania go away?
Yes, trichotillomania is likely to go away but only with proper treatment. It usually lasts for several months to as long as 20 years before disappearing. The condition is known to have relapses and recurrences. This means it goes away and then again returns after a certain period.
Psychiatrists treat trichotillomania by any or combination of the therapies:
- Pharmacological therapy (medications)
Psychotherapy involves biofeedback training or therapy, in which the patient is trained to identify the triggers or thoughts that propel them toward hair pulling. Eventually, they are thought to change their thinking pattern and ultimately, the habit. There is also something known as the “habit reversal” technique. With this technique, the patient is asked to concentrate on other activities, such as clenching of fists, whenever the impulse to pull the hair comes.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has not approved any medication for treating trichotillomania. However, doctors have seen patients getting benefitted from medications that are used to treat depression and other psychiatric disorders. N-acetyl cysteine, an amino acid supplement, has also been used in the treatment of trichotillomania.
Research is yet to establish the efficacy of a single therapy or combination of the two therapies in the treatment of trichotillomania.