Hair-Pulling (Trichotillomania) and SPD

by Nicole Chacin
(Colorado Springs, CO)

So is there any research out there that links SPD to hair-pulling, which is usually diagnosed as Trichotillomania? I've read a ton of research on Trich, but this is the first I've heard of SPD but there are SO many similarities to the two disorders its uncanny!


In Trich, the main thing is a sensory deficit, which causes the child/adult/adolescent, to pull their hair out to meet those sensory needs. Most often they don't even realize they're pulling until someone makes them aware of it. It can mess up their life because some pull until they have bald spots and sores on their scalp.

But the thing that gets me is that most everything I've read about SPD up to this point, tells me that those people who are dealing with hair-pulling would benefit so very much from learning about SPD as well.

Anyone out there have children or you yourself dealing with hair-pulling aspect of SPD and is there any research that links the two disorders?

Thanks!

Here is a link to an article on this very topic in case you didn't see this: Hairpulling & SPD


Comments for Hair-Pulling (Trichotillomania) and SPD

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Aug 19, 2015
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Occupational therapy assessment & treatment
by: Anonymous

For those of you who want more information and treatment, occupational therapists who work with sensory processing disorders may be of greater help than a psychologist.

Sep 13, 2014
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Diet
by: L.K.

I've considered the Kender diet, but it requires getting rid of legumes, which is too big a sacrifice for me.

I am dairy-intolerant, and, for reasons possibly related to bad childhood experiences, I hate the taste of milk or cheese and want to puke.

I don't eat a lot of wheat, although I don't go out of my way to have a gluten-free diet. Bread fills me up quickly, and most bread doesn't taste good to me, which is why I usually avoid it, although sometimes I'll eat a good baguette.

I am very sensitive to clothing in addition to hair and nails. It has to feel just right, or I won't wear it. I don't like the sensory distraction and ambiguity caused by material which is not connected by nerves to the rest of my body.

May 20, 2014
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anyone try different diets?
by: Lisa

L.K., wondering if you have ever tried different diets? (not sensory) but sugar free, magnesium rich, no gluten. My daughter ( age 11) has always had extreme tactile defensiveness and just recently trich. She describes it exactly the way you describe the sensation. It has been suggested to us that its either diet related or a 'yeast' problem.

Sep 01, 2011
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Sensory ambiguity, Asperger's and Trich
by: L.K.

I have always thought Trichotillomania has been wrongly characterized as one of the following: "Impulse control disorder", "Self-injury", something to set oneself apart socially, etc.

I think Trich is actually closer to SPD. I have it. When my hair grows long, I get "sensory impatience" which results from the projections of hair onto my scalp -- a pull of a hair will get focused at the root even though the thing pulling the hair, e.g. the weight of gravity, is not directly pulling on the root. So my brain is impatiently trying to figure out and correct the sensation which is indirect and ambiguous. Same with fingernails, which I file off. Because there is not enough information to tell what is pulling on the hair, I want to pull it out.

I am male and shave my hair short, which reduces the need to pull. So Trich for me is not an impulse or behavior control problem, but an understandable reaction to a sensory sensation caused by hair's nerveless and ambiguous connection to the body.

I also have Asperger's, although I'm high-functioning in a professional job.

May 29, 2010
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More common than I thought!
by: Anonymous

I'm surprised to see so many responses to your question! My daughter started hair pulling this winter right after she received SPD diagnosis and it was awful because I couldn't find much info about SPD kids with that behaviour. I was very grateful to get one comment when I blogged.

We started a strict sensory diet when the trich began and that did help some but she still does it a little. I definitely know their is a connection with spd because while my daughter was really removing the hair at an alarming rate her spd dressing problems disappeared! She'd wear anything without complaint which is NOT typical!!
Their really should be research done on this topic. It is a relief to me to know others are experiencing the same correlation.

May 28, 2010
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yes
by: Anonymous

I am relieved to see this comment on spd and trich. My daughter has both severe SPD and trich since she was 1yrs old she has been pulling her hair - yet the doctors focus on the trich as a diagnosis. We are trying to find a good psychologist but its such a confusing road where our pediatrician does not acknowledge SPD. Anyone else with any experience to share?

Oct 26, 2009
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trich and SID
by: a mom

I've been researching this because my teenage daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder back in first grade and now has Trich. I took her for Occupational Therapy back then and am wondering if that would help her again...

Aug 18, 2009
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SPD, Trichtillomania and RELIEF
by: Anonymous

I have Trichtillomania and related problems such as nail biting and have cut in the past. All those years of mental health evaluations and I'm just now learning about SPD! I definitely think there is a direct link.

I also suffer from Fibromyalgia and ADD, but now there seems to be a link with those problems and SPD in my life as well.

This month I started with some sensory activities. Gross Motor : Dancing, Gardening. Sandwiching by having friend press on my back (I have always loved this and hard massages but didn't connect to the disorder until now). The biggest change is that I made a correlation between my "pressure seeking" and "rubbing seeking" behaviors and am teaching replacements to hair pulling, picking and nailbiting. I use a firm agave cloth in the shower in the morning to rub my skin. Then, I have a pet-hair remover brush with firm carpet-like spikes which I can brush on my skin in the middle of the day. If I don't have the brush, I have been excusing myself to a bathroom to lightly scratch my arms, legs and stomach with my fingernails.

I've discovered that if I regiment myself with sensory activities and brushing during the day 1) I don't touch my head AT ALL 2) My Fibromyalgia/muscle inflammation is remarkably less intense 3) It is easier to concentrate for periods of up to 3 hours! Also, I am generally a nicer person to be around because I am less stressed out.

Dec 02, 2008
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Reply to Trichotillomania and SPD
by: Kristin

Hey,

I don't know if there is any research or not (I was actually wondering the same thing, which is how I found this) but I have both trichotillomania and SPD. I didn't really know anything about SPD until recently when I found some old paperwork from evaluations that were done on me when I was little and it had the diagnosis in it.

I googled it, and it describes me exactly. I then started wondering if there was any connection between this and the trichotillomania. I do realize when I'm pulling, but the urge to pull is very strong and I often can't seem to stop.

When I pull a hair out I often get a huge sense of relief, if that makes any sense. I did recently find that wearing tight gloves seems to suppress the urge. Could that be from the SPD, does anyone know? Anyway, that's a very, very brief summary of my problems. :)

Jul 24, 2008
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I did see that article
by: Anonymous

Yes I did see that article, but that was the only thing I saw about it. That's why I wanted to post to see if anyone else has found additional info. I was looking on the Trich.org site and didn't see anything specific about SPD, and the article that you guys have don't label the hairpulling Trichotillomania.

Jul 23, 2008
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I understand
by: Cindy P

My daughter was first diagnosed with Trich, a little over year ago. Then, General Anxiety Disorder about 11 months ago. Her therapist helped me to pull together my concerns about her sensory needs, and about 5 months ago she had a SID diagnosis. I can see how these all interrelate, but am unaware of any research. It would be interesting to see if there is a link. It makes sense to me that there is a sensation when a hair is pulled, and how if you are a sensory seeker it would give the release that is part of the Trich symptom list.

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