Tricho­tillo­mania Support Online

Prevalent Triggers of Hair Pulling Behaviour

We asked 11,000 people who have trichotillomania:

“What usually triggers a pulling spree for you?”

The 20 most frequent responses were (in order of prevalence) stress (48%), boredom (34%), anxiety (13%), watching TV, reading, sitting down, thinking, nerves, being alone, worry, work, tiredness, depression, upset, using the computer, driving, being ill, itching, certain foods and looking in mirrors.

Types of Trigger

We categorised the results into the following 6 groups: Anxiety, Situational, Boredom, Physical, Emotional and Habit

The Pie Chart below depicts the proportion of the 6 groups of most prevalent triggers of hair pulling behaviour compiled from a self-reported list of triggers from 11,000 people with the disorder trichotillomania.

Figure 1.1: Pie Chart depicting most prevalent triggers of hair pulling behaviour

Below is a list of contents for the 6 groups. Each list is ordered so the most frequent trigger appears first.


Stress, anxiety, tension, thinking, nerves, worry, to relax, problems, pressure, fear, take mind off things, excitement, deadlines, socialising, restlessness, financial worry, appearance worry, to unwind, angst


Watching TV, reading, sitting down, at work, using computer, by self/on own, driving, in bed, studying, at home, on phone, concentrating, at school, during exams, looking in mirror, with family, when busy, writing, in bathroom, focussing, procrastinating, evenings, deadlines, traffic, revision, in private, travelling, tweezers


Boredom, being alone, not keeping hands busy, relaxing, being idle, waiting, traffic, day-dreaming, free time, zoning out, inactivity, procrastinating, absent-mindedness, spare time, escapism, unwinding


Particular hairs, tiredness, feeling ill, particular lash, itch, lack of sleep, at night, long hairs, urges, eating certain foods, re-growth, period, hairs out of place, spots, pimples or bumps, pain, different hairs, irritation, sugar, roots, fatigue, thick hairs, mascara, soreness, caffeine, split ends, short hairs, prickly feeling, food, drink, white hairs, insomnia, alcohol, stubble, tingle, exhaustion, greasy hair, hormones, ingrown hairs, shaving, texture, allergies, burning, drugs


Feeling bad, loneliness, depression, upset, anger, sadness, frustration, emotions, mind, lack of control, family, feeling low, arguments, for comfort, happy, mad, parents, fighting, hurt, overwhelm, relationships, negativity, guilt, change, mood, insecurity, bad day, feeling ugly, crying, confusion, embarrassment, distress, bullies, confrontation, father, abuse, escapism, criticism


Anything, I don’t know, habit, it’s constant, not conscious of it, it’s automatic, routine, ritual

© Trichotillomania Support UK 2010