Hair-pulling Disorder
If a person suspects that he / she or a loved one is suffering from Hair-pulling Disorder, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.


What is Hair-pulling Disorder?

Hair removal disorder is a strong need to pluck your own hair. Like pyromania and kleptomania, the person feels tense before the action and relief after hair removal is complete. The disorder usually develops in childhood, where the person repeatedly pulls out their head hair, eyebrows and / or lashes. Sometimes, a person with a hair removal disorder can even pick out beards, forearms or pubic hair. Hair extraction disorder is not associated with pain; rather, the action causes a tingling or tingling sensation. The condition may vary, but is predominantly chronic.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF Hair-pulling Disorder?

There are no symptoms as an indication, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), not accepted worldwide as the most authoritative source. There are only essential features. Please note Please note that an official identification may only be made by a qualified person.

  1. Repeated personal hair removal causing bald spots (no hair).
  2. Unsuccessful attempts to control hair pulling behavior.



  1. Why is treatment necessary for Hair-pulling Disorder?
    Without proper treatment, the symptoms of Hair-pulling Disorder can get out of control. Hair-pulling Disorder can in this respect be associated with other diseases, e.g. diabetes, be compared. Both require ongoing pharmacological treatment (medication) and monitoring by a professional, and the results are generally much better if the person is regularly receiving psychotherapy from a psychologist.
  2. Who can diagnose me or a loved one?
    We recommend that you be tested and diagnosed only by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. They are trained to distinguish between different psychological disorders, which may have similar symptoms.
  3. What role does a psychologist play in the treatment of hair extraction?
    A psychologist can diagnose hair removal disorder and treat psychotherapeutically. This means that he or she can help you understand your diagnosis and live with it, as well as apply a strategy that can lead to behavioral change. A psychologist in South Africa may not prescribe medication and usually works with a psychiatrist in a team.
  4. How successful is the use of medication?
    The right medication is usually successful and in some cases can control pulse control disorders completely.
  5. What is the difference between a GP, clinical psychologist and psychiatrist?
    1. Family doctor: A GP has been studying medically for seven years. Because they do not specialize in psychiatry (such as a psychiatrist), they have only limited exposure to the training necessary to diagnose and treat people with psychological / psychiatric conditions. Your family doctor may prescribe medication, but is also ethically required to refer a patient to a specialist if needed.
    2. Clinical psychologist: A clinical psychologist is studying human behavior and psychotherapy, and must have at least a master's degree (six years +) in South Africa, with an internship and research that must be completed in order to register. It is the person who will help you understand and live with your psychological diagnosis (such as post-traumatic stress disorder).
    3. Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist also studied medically for seven years, but specializes in psychiatry, namely the chemical treatment of disorders related to human behavior. So a psychiatrist is the doctor who can diagnose you and prescribe the right medication for your psychological condition. The reference to "psychological states" or "psychiatric states" is exactly the same.
  6. Is there a specific type of psychologist I need to see?
    In South Africa, there are currently five different categories or specialist areas within which all psychologists must register:
    1. Clinical psychologist
    2. Counseling Psychology
    3. Educational Psychology
    4. Industrial Psychology
    5. Research Psychology

    The different categories indicate the specialist areas within which psychologists must adhere to strict regulations and comply with ethical and legal requirements. Only one clinical psychologist can make a clinical diagnosis according to the HPCSA.



If a loved one or friend is diagnosed with hair removal disorder, your support and motivation can play a very important role in accepting and managing their diagnosis. Here are guidelines on how to assist an individual:

  1. Be patient. People who are under the onslaught of hair pulling disorder do not always have the ability to say how they feel or what they are experiencing. Give them a chance to get used to the diagnosis first, and gradually work out an effective plan to manage their lives from now on.
  2. Be informed about Hair-pulling Disorder. The more you and your loved one, family member or colleague know about the disease, the more you can work together on a plan to support the person and manage the disease.
  3. Ask what your loved one expects of you. One can easily think you know what is best for another person, but the easiest is to ask how he or she wants you to act.
  4. Listen to him or her, and don't give constant advice or try to reason with logic. It is important that the person takes responsibility for the illness and the effect it will have on his / her life. When someone makes choices on behalf of someone else, it may cause people to become dependent on you and then not want to fight the disease themselves. It is not your illness, but your loved one's. Listening is a wonderful way to support your loved one.
  5. Get to know the signs and symptoms so you can act early. Everyone's symptoms of hair extraction do not manifest in the same way, so it is very important to understand how the person manifests in your life's symptoms. For example, when your loved one suddenly experiences significantly more anxiety than other times, you can start taking measures as long as possible.
  6. Participate in physical activities with the individual. It is not a cliché that regular exercise helps people with psychological diagnoses. Exercise relieves tension and anxiety, and aids in the production of low-mood transmitters. So regular exercise is actually a successful antidepressant.
  7. Encourage a healthy eating and sleeping pattern. An established routine not only helps the person manage their illness, but also helps to see signs / symptoms early.
  8. Take a good look at yourself! Remember, a person with a diagnosed hair removal disorder can also negatively impact you by involving you in their disorder. Living with a person diagnosed with anxiety can feel frustrating, exhausting and sometimes chaotic. Make time for yourself too.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?