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General overview

Persistent and repetitive plucking of hair, regardless of the area involved, could be a sign of possible psychological changes which could be linked with anxiety.

The term given to someone who enjoys self-inflicted pain is masochism, but it doesn't seem that any criteria are present which would define the involved person as having a personality disorder or situation where pain is needed for sexual arousal. Instead, the person enjoys some pain experienced by plucking hairs on the lower face but not the upper face.

Trichotillomania 

This is a condition whereby patients pull out hair on various parts of the body such as the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, nose, arms, hands, legs and pubic areas. This issue is triggered by increased stressors or depression and the peak age of this condition is between 9 and 13 years of age. 

Trichotillomania is thought to be part of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and could be regarded as a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The obsession could be anxious thoughts which the patient experiences and the compulsion, in this case, would be to pluck hair from the body which then brings relief to the obsession.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

As mentioned, OCD is defined as a psychiatric condition which is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears which result in repetitive behaviours. The compulsion is therefore as a response to the obsession in order to reduce the affect it has on the patient.

Patients may try to ignore or stop these thoughts or fears but that only leads to more distress which then results in an increase in compulsive behaviours. The patient is then stuck in a vicious cycle where the obsession leads to an increase in the compulsion which then worsens the obsession, and so forth.

The main causes behind this issue could be genetic or due to a person's unique biology in terms of chemistry and brain function and anatomy. Environmental factors, such as the mentioned physical or emotional stressors, could be triggers for OCD.

Seeing a doctor is important to do if the obsessions and/or compulsions are affecting your quality of life, interfering with your work or are causing ruptions between you and family and/or friends.

Treatment of OCD

Oral antidepressants, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's), are prescribed to help reduce anxiety caused by stressors. This helps to then reduce obsessions experienced by the patient which results in less compulsive behaviours. 

Referral to a psychologist is also very important as they can incorporate a type of therapy called exposure and response prevention (ERP). This therapy entails exposing the patient to the known fear or obsession and then teaching them healthier ways to respond to them and thus be able to cope better.

Home remedies to help reduce the obsessions may include the following suggestions:

  • Make sure that medication is taken every day even if you are feeling better. OCD symptoms can come back once medication is stopped.
  • Discuss taking any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins or herbal supplements with your prescribing doctor before using these products.
  • Make sure that you discuss any changes in symptoms or behaviours or if you notice any new fears or compulsions with your doctor or therapist.

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