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Hair pulling
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Hair pulling

My three and a half year old daughter has had a couple of phases of pulling out her own hair, as well as continually pulling mine out. She tickles her face with it as a comforting device. The first phase of pulling her own hair coincided with a period when she was quite run down and not enjoying nursery very much. It seemed to stop when we were on a family holiday, so I was around full time, and she pulled my hair out more instead. Recently she has started doing it again, after we moved house and she started a new school.

She is a bright and alert child, with good speech and understanding. I have explained to her that when she pulls her hair out it gets shorter (she is desperate to have long hair), and she understands that, but seems unable to stop herself. She also tries to hide it from me as she knows I don't want her to do it. I know that cutting her hair short might break the habit, but I feel that it would be seen as a punishment, as all her friends have long hair and she wants to as well.

I also don't know how to stop her pulling my hair out. I do not have any bald patches but I find it highly irritating, and the condition of my hair seems to be getting worse and worse. She used to take one hair at a time, but now wants six! I try not to show my irritation, as I want her to get the comfort she needs from me, and also I prefer her to get hair from me than her own, as she has bald patches developing, but it doesn't seem to be a solution as she reverts to pulling her own when she is away from me or upset with me.

I feel terribly sorry for her, as I can see that she knows she shouldn't do it, and she is embarrassed about the baldness although I have tried not to make an issue of it; she just can't seem to help it. We have tried to find other things for her to tickle her face with, but nothing else will do. Also there seems to be something in the action of the pulling she needs, as she quite often will discard old hairs in favour of freshly pulled ones.
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This behavior, called trichotillomania, is an impulse control disorder that often commences during a period of stress and the child continues it as a habit pattern because the child finds it to be soothing. On the behavioral end, try to keep her engaged, and limit the time spent in passive pursuits. Also, you might experiment with use of cotton mittens indoors, as this impedes the behavior. As for her pulling your hair, simply don't allow it. Apparently you are permitting her to do this, but it is ill-advised. It's important for you to communicate that you won't permit it. Is it hard for you to set limits on her? Some parents are reluctant to say no to their children, but it's important that you do. Otherwise she will undersdtand certain actions to be OK, when in fact they are not.
5 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I would like to know if anyone has any advice for mothers of children that are pulling their hair out.  It is extremely frustrating and worrying, as I know that it has become a habit.  What has worked for you?
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Avatar_n_tn
My daughter is experiencing the same problems - I think she has picked up the bahaviour and continues to do as it has developed into a habit.  I am quite concerned as she is developing thinning hair on one side of her head.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Avatar_n_tn
This site is meant for older self-injurers who can understand the reasons behind self-injury (including hair-pulling) but maybe one of the main reasons - finding comfort/release in the pain of pulling the hair out - applies to your child.  If you ask about this, maybe she'll be able to give you some insight about why she pulls her hair out.

Don't try not to make an issue out of this - just keep it private.  Ignoring the problem and insisting your daughter can't help it won't make it go away!
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Avatar_n_tn
oops, sorry, forgot the site :)
http://www.palace.net/~llama/psych/injury.html
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Avatar_n_tn
A related discussion, I am 14. was started.
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Avatar_m_tn
A related discussion, pulling hair out was started.
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Avatar_f_tn
I have a 4 year old daughter with a disability. She's vision impaired and delayed with her learning. Lately she has began pulling out her hair. When I tell her not to do something she pulls at her hair and at Kindy when they make her take turns or when she's occasionally being babysat by my parents she will spend hours fighting to pull out her hair. She only does it when I'm not around and I think it's because she misses me but Nothing will stop her and I'm very
worried as her hair is thinning on one side and
it's breaking off all over. Please help! It's so sad!  
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