Trick uh till uh mania… Trichotillomania is traditionally one of the most difficult psychological disorders to say, one that is difficult for many to understand, and one that has been difficult to treat. Research published this month in the Archives of General Psychiatry introduces a possible new treatment that is currently available over the counter as a vitamin supplement.
Trichotillomania is classified as an impulse control disorder in the DSM-IV; however, some consider it self-injury, a tic, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. When someone suffers from trichotillomania they experience urges to pull out their hair; this can be hair from the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or any body hair. Generally sufferers experience tension building with a desire to pull that is relieved once they have pulled the hair out. Pulling tends to increase during times of high stress and may disappear entirely during times of low stress. Pulling can result in bald patches or complete absence of hair in certain areas of the body. In some cases sufferers are also driven to bite the bulb at the root of the hair, chew on, or even swallow hair.
The research conducted at the University of Minnesota was a double-blind study, involving 50 people for a period of 12 weeks. The experimental group was given N-Acetylcysteine, an amino acid often found in health food supplements. (N-Acetylcsteine is also knows as N-acetyl cysteine or NAC.) They were started at a dose of 1200mg daily for six weeks; this dose was increased to 2400mg per day for the following six weeks. The control group was given a placebo.
At the end of the study, 56% of the experiment group reported feeling “much or very much improved,” while only 16% of the control group reported the same. A significant reduction in symptoms was noted after only 9 weeks.