Clinical characteristics of trichotillomania

BACKGROUND: Trichotillomania is a common psychiatric disorder classified as an obsessive-compulsive and related condition in DSM-5. Despite being first described in the 1800s, little is known about its phenomenology and clinical presentation. Most information about trichotillomania is based on small samples.

METHODS: Clinical and demographic data were collected from 858 individuals with trichotillomania who participated in research studies that used in-person assessments with validated instruments.

RESULTS: A total of 858 adolescents and adults (mean age 29.3; range 11 to 65; 89.9% female) were recruited. The peak age of symptom onset was 11 to 15, and most affected individuals (93.5%) had symptom onset before age 20. Individuals reported pulling from several body sites, and the most frequent triggers were stress and the feel of their hair. Comorbidities included major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and skin picking disorder. Most individuals with trichotillomania (61.7%) previously had received treatment. Among those who had received treatment, more individuals had received medication (43.4%) than psychotherapy (33.0%).

CONCLUSIONS: This study sheds new light on the clinical presentation and phenomenology of trichotillomania. Results highlight the need for further research into its clinical presentation, longitudinal course, and optimal treatment approaches.

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