Temperament in trichotillomania and skin picking disorder

BACKGROUND: Trichotillomania (TTM) and skin picking disorder (SPD) result in significant psychosocial burden. Despite this burden, however, risk factors related to the development of these disorders remain unclear. The present study assessed temperament in a well-characterized sample of adults with TTM or SPD.

METHODS: A total of 202 adults age 18 to 65 were enrolled; 44 had TTM, 30 had SPD, and 128 served as controls. Participants completed the self-report Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) to examine the severity of TTM and SPD symptoms, quality of life, and temperament. Group differences were characterized and correlations with other measures were examined.

RESULTS: Compared to controls, those with TTM or SPD scored significantly higher on harm avoidance and its subscales, with TTM associated with higher scores than SPD. Those with TTM or SPD scored significantly higher on only 1 measure of novelty seeking (extravagance). Higher TPQ harm avoidance correlated with worse hair pulling severity and worse quality of life.

CONCLUSIONS: The temperament traits of participants with TTM or SPD differed in significant ways from controls; those with TTM or SPD generally demonstrated similar trait profiles. A dimensional approach to the personalities of those with TTM or SPD may offer insight and provide clues to treatment strategies.

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