Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Leslie Lee
Santa Cruz, California 

More empathy required in reporting


August 27, 2020

The article “Pulling Your Hair Out” published Aug. 13, 2020 about trichotillomania contains inaccuracies that should be clarified. This is a debilitating disorder, and to refer to it as something people do because their plans fell apart furthers stigma and shame that prevent people from seeking help. 

Trichotillomania is a mental health disorder affecting at least 2% of the population. It often begins in puberty, but toddlers and babies may compulsively pull their hair as well. Contrary to the information in the article, it is an obsessive-compulsive related disorder (note the term disorder is not the same as disease) caused by a combination of neurological, genetic and environmental factors. Many people affected suffer tremendous emotional effects, missing school, work and avoiding relationships out of shame. 

The truth is, people with trichotillomania have a very difficult time controlling the behavior. It is not a behavior someone chooses, or that takes place over minor disappointments. It is a complex neurobiological behavior that often requires cognitive behavioral treatment by a licensed therapist.

When reporting on mental health disorders, please consider the emotional impacts and refer to scientific data. Failure to do so only makes it more difficult for people to get the help they need to live normal lives, causing unnecessary suffering and shame.

For more information about trichotillomania and related disorders, including treatment referrals, support and clinical information, please visit 


Leslie Lee, Programs & Communications Director for the TLC Foundation for BFRBs


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