How to Stop Trichotillomania in Toddlers

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

In this lesson, we will learn about a disorder called trichotillomania. We will learn about techniques that are helpful in managing trichotillomania in toddlers.

My Toddler's Hair is Falling Out!

Neva is a cute and rambunctious three-year-old girl. Her mom loves to dress her up in cute dresses with bows in her hair. She has a cute personality to go along with it. She twirls her hair and smiles when she gets attention.

Neva's mom has ben noticing that Neva's hair is thin. She didn't think much of it as she also has very fine hair. But today when she was washing her hair, she actually discovered a few small bald spots on Neva's head.

She couldn't figure out what could have caused this, but felt there was probably some logical explanation. As she watched over the next several months, she noticed that more bald spots were showing up on her head and others would go away. Convinced this no longer could be dismissed, she took her to see her pediatrician.

The pediatrician looked Neva over, asked her mom lots of questions, and ran a couple tests. She finally decided that Neva had trichotillomania. Neva's mom had no idea what this was but was convinced by the sound of it, it had to be something horrible.

What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania is also called hair-pulling disorder. It is a mental disorder and generally involves pulling hair from the head, although it can be pulling hair from different parts of the body. Some children pull their hair out and feel pleasure from doing so. Other children are not even aware that they are doing it.

Neva's mom didn't realize what was happening until the pediatrician asked her to observe some of Neva's behavior. She then noticed that not only did Neva twirl her hair when she was being cute, but she also would do it while she laid in bed to fall asleep. And what she found out was that Neva wasn't just twirling her hair, she was also pulling a piece of hair out at a time. She also started noticing Neva would do this while watching TV, and sometimes when she was playing with her toys.

Sometimes trichotillomania is associated with feelings of tension, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Pulling hair out in association with these emotions can result in pleasure and relief upon doing so.

Neva's mom felt overwhelmed with all of this new information. Neva was three years old. How in the world would she ever get her to stop?

How Can I Stop My Toddler From Pulling Her Hair Out?

Neva's mom took the suggestion of the pediatrician, and did some more research before just telling Neva to ''stop'' every time she saw her playing with her hair. She learned several steps that she should take to help Neva overcome this disorder.

Trichotillomania is a disorder that can affect adults as well, and is often treated with antidepressants or other medications. In young children, medications are not the first choice for treatment. The focus of treatment for children involves counseling, a supportive family, and behavioral techniques.

Identify the Behaviors

You will want to identify what behaviors are surrounding the activity of hair-pulling. Is it when the child is stressed, tired, lonely, or bored? Does it occur when they are watching TV, laying down to go to sleep, or when they are playing?

Identify When it Happens

Next, you want to identify when the hair-pulling is likely to happen. Is it usually in the evenings? Or maybe it's first thing in the morning? The more you can learn about when the behavior is occurring, the more you can work to overcome it.

Sensory Stimulation

You will want to find ways to replace the stimulation the child receives from pulling their hair out. Many children like to play with the hair after they pull it out or even chew on it or eat it. You will want to find something to replace this sensory input.

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