Persons with trichotillomania are unable to suppress the impulse to pull out their own hair. In some instances, they may also eat it. The condition is often under-diagnosed due to the social stigma surrounding it; therefore, a large number of people go untreated.
How an individual with the disorder is treated is conditional upon their age:
- In childhood the hair pulling is simply monitored as most children tend to grow out of it.
- For teenagers and young adults, programs designed to modify their behaviour, developed between the patient, their doctor, and their parents, are implemented. Including the family in the treatment of the condition for support is considered important.
- Trichotillomania often occurs as a symptom of another mental disorder when it develops in adults. Therefore, discovering what that is and treating it accordingly frequently alleviates it.
Medications are infrequently used to treat the disorder as they are rarely effective. Habit Reversal Training, a behaviour modification program, has shown to be the most effective. It is often the case that persons with the disorder are not even aware that they are in engaging in the hair pulling, and so teaching patients how to recognize and re-direct the impulse is of the utmost importance.