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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2000 Sep;23(3):587-604.

Characterization of trichotillomania. A phenomenological model with clinical relevance to obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Multiple approaches to characterization of TTM have been developed, including categoric definitions and dimensional considerations. When TTM is viewed in the context of other disorders with common comorbidities and overlapping similar phenomenologies, such as OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, skin picking, TS, and olfactory reference syndrome, clinical approaches to assessment and differential diagnosis are more complex. This article presents a general overview of TTM included as a background for a heuristic clinical framework for assessing obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. A comprehensive behavioral model of TTM as a template is presented in the context of a broader, phenomenologic approach to assessment of several other disorders. These additional conditions were chosen on clinical grounds because they seem to share some phenomenologic characteristics with TTM. It is hoped that combining a phenomenologic approach to the differentiation of repetitive behaviors (as has been valuable in advancing the understanding of repetitive behaviors in TS and OCD), coupled with a paradigmatic comprehensive behavioral assessment and treatment model of TTM, may foster the validation of such approaches for other putative obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. Also, the relative intensity and frequency ascribed to the various behavioral and phenomenologic components of the conditions depicted represent clinical impressions, with varying degrees of empiric support, and require objective validation. This approach is meant to serve as a point of departure for clinical assessment of these complex, interesting, and sometimes incompletely diagnosed and inadequately treated conditions. It is hoped that empiric validation or refutation of this conceptualization will stimulate additional research and provide clinicians with a general framework for assessing patients suffering from these difficult conditions. For more information about trichotillomania, contact The Trichotillomania Learning Center (TLC), 1215 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831-457-1004;

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