When Anxiety Has You (Literally) Pulling Your Hair Out

August 25, 2014 1:04 PM

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It’s an ancient human habit, and yet it’s one psychiatrists are still struggling to understand: compulsive hair-pulling. The behavior can be caused by anxiety or stress, boredom, or seemingly nothing at all, explained psychiatrist Ali M. Mattu, who spoke about the history of the disorder yesterday on Columbia University Medical Center’s biweekly podcast.

He explained that hair-pulling is now lumped together in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-V, with other “body-focused repetitive behaviors” like skin-picking or nail-biting. But it stood as its own diagnosis for a long time, previously known as trichotillomania, a...

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