Compulsive hair cutting: What does it mean?

Picking, pulling and plucking hair is a common enough occurrence among people with obsessive-compulsive disorders but what about compulsive hair cutting? Do people that chronically cut their hair classify as OCD? Compulsive hair removal, or Trichotillomania, isn't just a diagnosis for angry teenagers or the mentally ill. Many people struggle with this kind of behavior, and like all behaviors of this sort, it brings the sufferer shame and embarrassment. So what does compulsive hair cutting mean?

Facts about compulsive hair cutting
  • According to Dr. Steven Phillipson, contributor to OCD Online, there are actually four disorder categories this behavior qualifies as. These are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, a Habit Disorder or an Impulse Control Disorder.
  • The disorder determination depends on the patient's unique medical history. There is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis.
  • Unlike hair picking or twisting, compulsive hair cutting is most often associated with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder or perfectionisms.
  • People who compulsively cut their hair only do so in private and they usually only cut their own hair. However, parents may cut children's hair, too.
  • Obsessively cutting your hair during times of stress may not be an OCD type of behavior, but a sign of depression or anxiety.
  • Treatments for this type of chronic hair removal involve therapy, relearning bad habits and sometimes depression medication. Willpower alone isn't enough for many patients to stop this behavior.
What can happen? Besides embarrassment, the person chronic hair cutting may morph into other behaviors. Even though it is painless and semi-permanent, compulsive cutting, even of the hair, is a type of self-mutilation and shouldn't be ignored. What do you do if you suspect a loved one has this problem? Ask questions but don't expect complete honesty. Secrecy plays a large role in this kind of behavior. Look for obvious hair cutting like chunks missing from the hair or weird looking hair cuts. Also, people who constantly keep their hair short may be hiding their obsession with short chops.

Don't be overly concerned if someone you loves decides to try hair cutting on themselves and fails. Many people experiment with simple hair cutting. Real conditions are constant and obvious. Seek therapy or talk to your doctor about your behavior if you are concerned.

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