Dear Annie: One of our darling granddaughters started to pull out her eyelashes at around age 9. We expressed our concern to our son. Shortly after, we were told that our granddaughter was seeing a counselor to address this behavior. We were so relieved when she stopped. But about a year later, she started again. Now her 9-year-old brother is pulling hair out of his head. He has a bald spot about two inches in diameter.
Our son and his wife have education degrees. The marriage and family appear OK. The kids seem happy, and they do well in school. I recently brought up the counseling to our son, but he said, “We tried that.” He indicated that the kids will stop on their own.
Is stress causing this? How involved should we get? Right now, we feel like it’s the elephant in the room. – Blue-Collar Grandparents
Dear Grandparents: Trichotillomania is a disorder that results in compulsive hair pulling. It is currently considered to be a “body-focused repetitive behavior.” There also may be a genetic predisposition, which would explain why both of your grandchildren suffer from it. Sometimes stress, anxiety or fatigue can trigger the hair pulling, but not always.
Doctors do not know the underlying cause but believe it may develop due to a combination of genetic, hormonal, emotional and environmental factors. Appropriate treatment involves cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes in combination with medication, hypnosis and relaxation techniques. Your son and his wife may already be taking the necessary steps, but either way, you can get more information through the Trichotillomania Learning Center at trich.org.