Trichotillomania: Hair Pulling Disorder Afflicts Millions

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Found this interesting article that was worth sharing on PRWeb about Trichotillomania, written by Clinical Psychologist and anxiety specialist Dr. Francine Rosenberg. What are your thoughts on this article?

familywalk2Many young girls and grown women play with their hair. Often they unconsciously twirl it around a finger, especially when they’re bored or tired. It’s a harmless habit. Of more consequence is trichotillomania, a disorder characterized by a recurrent, irresistible urge to pull hair out of the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes and other parts of the body, resulting in noticeable bald patches. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, trichotillomania may affect as much as 4% of the population; women are four times as likely as men to be affected.* “Trichotillomania is not just a nervous habit,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Francine Rosenberg of Morris Psychological Group, “although it may be triggered or made worse by stress. In some people the disorder is mild and manageable but for many the compulsion to pull out the hair is overwhelming and if not treated can have serious consequences for health and well-being.”

Understanding Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is generally classified as an impulse control disorder, meaning it is driven by an uncontrollable impulse or urge to perform a harmful act. The individual feels increasing tension that can only be relieved by performing the act; afterward, there is often a sense of shame or regret. Depression and anxiety are common among those with trichotillomania, as are other body-focused repetitive disorders such as skin picking or nail biting. “People who pull their hair are not trying to hurt themselves,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “They have a neurologically-driven need to pull and although doing so acts as an immediate soothing mechanism, repeated episodes of hair-pulling and the disfigurement that results cause significant distress.”

It isn’t known exactly what causes trichotillomania but there may be a genetic component to the disorder; having a close relative who is affected increases an individual’s risk. An imbalance in the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine might play a role. It usually develops between the ages of 11 and 13 and while it is also seen in younger children – even as young as a year old – those cases are often mild and resolve after a year or so without treatment. For those for whom it is a lifelong disorder, complications include abrasions and infections in the area where the hair is pulled and digestive problems for those who eat the hair. “Emotional distress is a significant issue for most people,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “They try to style the hair to cover the bald patches or wear hats or wigs or false eyelashes to disguise the condition. Embarrassment and shame may cause them to shy away from social and job opportunities, leading to isolation, low self-esteem and depression.”

Treating Trichotillomania

While medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may reduce some symptoms of trichotillomania, the most effective treatment is a combination of education, medication and psychotherapy. The most successful results are typicall from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an approach in which patients learn to change their thoughts, feelings and behaviors so they can recognize and manage the impulses that lead to pulling without giving in to them. With CBT, therapists will use a behavioral technique known as Habit Reversal Training, a three step procedure designed to increase awareness, to teach relaxation strategies and to help identify a behavior that is incompatible with the hair pulling. This behavior, known as a “competing response” often involves using the same muscles as in the hair pulling but used in a discreet manner that would not easily be noticed if done in public. For example, clenching one’s fist and pressing their arm to their side are common competing responses for hair pulling.

“Trichotillomania can be a stubborn, chronic disorder,” says Dr. Rosenberg. For many people, it is a way of dealing with negative emotions such as anxiety, loneliness or stress, but the humiliation and embarrassment that result exacerbate those emotions. Early detection and intervention are important since, with the exception of very young children, the disorder seldom goes away without treatment. Psychotherapy can help manage the emotions and eliminate the impulsive behavior that wreaks havoc with health and quality of life.”

– Francine Rosenberg, PsyD., practices cognitive-behavior therapy, specializing in treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as stress, depression, anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders and relationship problems. Morris Psychological Group, P.A. offers a wide range of therapy and evaluation services to adults, children and adolescents.

Binge Eating Disorder

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By Judy Bennett

kideatingsandwichAnyone with a teenager knows that kids can seem like “bottomless pits” when it comes to food. But when is a child’s appetite not only unhealthy, but a cry for help?

Binge Eating Disorder, or BED, usually affects children between the ages of twelve and twenty-five, with girls outnumbering boys two to one. Children with BED eat large quantities of food whether or not they are hungry; they report feeling “zoned out” and out of control when eating. This leads to strong feelings of shame and distress, which then prompts the child to comfort him/herself with more food. Binge eating differs from bulimia in that the child is not compelled to “purge” after a binge episode, either through vomiting, laxatives, or compulsive exercise. Therefore, a child with BED is more likely to be overweight.

Studies have found physical, social, and psychological causes that lead to binge eating. The hypothalamus, a gland that secretes hormones that tell you when you’re full, may give off faulty signals. Compulsive eaters also have low levels of serotonin, the body’s “feel-good” chemical (Melinda Smith, MA; Robert Segal, MA; Jeanne Segal, PhD). Sometimes a child who is rigidly denied certain foods at home will binge on them at a friend’s house, or in secret. Most commonly, kids who binge are suffering from stress, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, or boredom.

Is your child suddenly eating an alarming amount of food because of a growth spurt, or in response to a problem he/she can’t soothe any other way? What should you look for?

• anxious behaviors such as nail-biting, sleep disturbances, aggression

• hidden stashes of food or empty wrappers

• preoccupation with food, i.e. next meal or snack

• negative comments about him/herself

• social isolation; spending more time alone in his/her room

• disengagement from normal activities of interest

• eating quickly; returning for more food within an hour of a meal

• a pattern of any of these behaviors occurring at least once a week over a three month period

If you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for parents, caregivers, teachers, and other adults in the child’s life, according to Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, chief pediatric officer of RealAge.


• allow mindless eating in front of the TV. Food should always be consumed at the table, without distractions (no texting, reading, etc.)

• tell children to “clean their plate.”

• use food as a reward.

• focus undue attention on food, body weight, or table manners.


• try to figure out what’s going on emotionally. Pressures at home? At school?

• manage your child’s stress. Find professional help if needed.

• teach kids to cook, so they learn to appreciate subtle flavors and quality ingredients.

• encourage physical activity to balance brain chemistry, alleviate boredom, and metabolize excess weight.

• provide three healthy, nutrient-dense meals and two snacks per day, but allow treats on occasion.

• be a good role model. Control portions, eat slowly, make healthful choices, and avoid the “don’ts” above.

• schedule doctor visits more frequently to build accountability and keep close tabs on any risk factors that may be present.

Above all, parents should feel empowered to address the issue head-on. Whether the cause is physical, social, or psychological, BED isn’t just a phase that children grow out of. “We remember to talk to our kids about drugs or bullying,” says Nancy Creighton, children’s outreach liaison at Westbrook Health Services. “But we don’t necessarily talk to them about good nutrition.”

– Judy Bennett is a board certified holistic health practitioner and a member of the International Association of Wellness Professionals and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior.

A.D.D. & Addiction

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By Bill Hanks

healthillustratedMy name is Bill Hanks and I’m, well…complicated. Clinically, I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic—with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) to boot—who, after 22 years of consuming a plethora of mind-bending toxins, is very much grateful to be alive.

It is the relationship between ADD & addiction that I wish to expand upon. I happen to believe that a significant correlation exists, all stemming from what I call the “awakening” effect that chemicals have on the ADD brain. With that said, let me start by saying that in my day, we didn’t know ADD. Instead, I was simply dismissed as “incorrigible” and a leather belt took the place of Ritalin.

The commonality between ADD & addiction has to do with neurotransmitters in the brain. In the case of ADD/ADHD, there exists a chemical imbalance affecting the pre-frontal cortex and thus disrupting focus, attention, and impulse control. This would account for the fact that my thoughts often became words and actions before I was consciously aware of what I was thinking. In other words, I often found out what I was thinking from what I had just said. I spent a lot of time in detention.

In other words, when I began taking drugs as a 16 year-old kid, I went from making C’s and D’s in school to making A’s and B’s.

In the case of addiction, it is the introduction of drugs that disrupts the natural regulation of these neurotransmitters. In other words, when I began taking drugs as a 16 year-old kid, I went from making C’s and D’s in school to making A’s and B’s. Drugs empowered my neurotransmitters in such a way that an “awakening” effect took place. Upon discovery of this awakening, I turned to self-medicating, which quickly evolved into abusing—eventually leading to a physical & mental dependence—ultimately resulting in a frail hold on reality.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I entered rehab 22 years later that I was diagnosed ADD. All I knew as a kid was “drugs made me smarter,” thereby validating their use.

Like any disorder, the key is catching an early diagnosis.

Our understanding of ADD/ADHD has come a long way since the late 60’s and early 70’s. Diagnosing has become routine, and the use of medication along with behavioral modifications has proved to be an effective treatment. Like any disorder, the key is catching an early diagnosis. If you suspect your child of having any learning issues (restlessness, inattentive, impulsive, unfocused, etc.), please seek the advice of your family physician. Help is just a phone call away.

– Bill Hanks is the author of a self-help memoir titled “Serenity: It’s a God Deal” ~ (finding your way to sobriety, sanity, and serenity). For more information about the author and book, to read excerpts, reviews, and op-eds, go to

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Poetry Can Heal Fat And Negativity

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By Risa Ruse

saladplateI am sure that you may have heard the saying, “We are what we eat.” I would like to add to this, “We are what we eat, and think!” You see thoughts are like food for the mind. The quality of such can bring good health or just the opposite in illness and disease. I would even go further to say it could lead to suicide. Even though eating disorders are not what I am focusing on (but are relevant) to the wanting to fill one up when the soul feels empty. Just for the record, my mother committed suicide when I was 11 years old. I had to witness her unhappiness (and several attempts before being successful in failing to enjoy life.)

This emptiness can show itself in feelings of not being worthy (even if we have had a normal life, per say.) It is the perception of self that determines these feelings that become our “reality” whether others perceive the same thing or not. Such disorders given to anxiety exhibit an exaggeration of what a person without anxiety, or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may perceive. Just being able to enjoy the simple things in life becomes a

Just being able to enjoy the simple things in life becomes a masterful plan of self-loathing that leads to addictions of many kinds.

masterful plan of self-loathing that leads to addictions of many kinds. Compulsive buying, eating comfort foods, sexual promiscuity (that may lead to or include lasciviousness.) This feeling of lack in our lives creates a wanting that is never satisfied. Sure, buying a new CD, dress, car, (or whatever our credit report will allow us to charge) will give a feeling of elation. This is not the same as joy. Joy is an emotion void of negativity. That is unless you really have a problem with life, and get joy out of making others miserable!

What I would like to share is a process in rhyme that comes from the divine that I have been able to coin; that is not like other poetry used for catharsis. You see, many persons that include Veterans use poetry as a means of expressing negative emotions that proliferate negative thinking. My poetry is inspired through my connection with my Higher Power (Christ is mine.) When I say a prayer, what is in my heart comes out in the form of rhyme that addresses a particular emotion (that is actually cleansed during the process.) I, and others who have heard it are left with a feeling of knowing exactly what was expressed and have a way of putting a new label on what emotional discomforts they are carrying. Since these are universal emotions of mostly anger and fear, we are not repeating any particular traumatic event (that would give negative thinking strength.) This kind of poetry is like a match igniting our spirituality. Once this flame is lit and we follow the required commitments to it, our lives change.

heartYou may be thinking right now, “What are these requirements?” The first is to express gratitude for even the little things in our lives. Giving thanks proliferates acquiring the ultimate gift of joy! The others are magnified with blessings when performed in prayer and meditation. Then prayer leads to faith, and once that is accompanied by trusting Eternal Spirit to provide our every need, comfort and healing comes.

– Want to know more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Contact me for a free inspired poetry consult. As an experienced Social Worker skilled in Veterans PTSD, victim turned victor twice of PTSD (once as a child losing my mother to suicide and then as a mother) I share the healing of negative emotions (one or two at a time in rhyme) that make it a safe place to heal. I share my books and my poetry articles on my website: