My 2 1/2 year old girl has been pulling and eating her hair. She has pulled her hair when tired or upset since she was just a few days old, and has always enjoyed eating my hair when she could pull it. The behavior escalated into worrisome about 9 months ago. I had a difficult preg. and she has a new brother. I have consulted my ped. he recommended cutting hair and giving her a doll to pull her hair instead of her own. I have followed this adviced for 6 months and no improvement. She will eat her sisters hair or anyones she can reach (even barbie hair or a hairbrush). I am concerned about the possible problems of eating all this hair, and if it signifies a deeper problem. She has a genetic history of manic depression on both sides of the family, could this be a warning sign? She is a happy child for the main, but when thwarted can exhibit extreme behavior (vomiting, screaming,hitting)Developmentally she is right on target, and was an extremely early walker and crawler, but maybe a little slow verbally (maybe because she has a talkative 4 year old sister to talk for her). Do you have any advice? Should I press my doctor to see her again? When should I worry? Thank you.
This combination of behaviors - trichotillomania and pica - can be indicative of developmental disorders, but not necessarily so. It is definitely a good idea to pursue additional diagnostic work. Pulling hair is technically defined as an impulse control disorder, and can result in habit patterns that sometimes have their root in anxiety. Pica, the ingestion of non-nutritive substances, is associated with a number of developmentally-based conditions, but sometimes occurs in children who do not display such conditions. While it can sometimes result, or be associated with, nutritional deficits, this also is not always true. So, as you can see, the symptoms themselves don't point in a single direction. Eating hair in any significant quantity can pose rather serious medical crises, in particular if any intestinal blockage occurs. So, a 'watchful waiting' approach is not a good idea.
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