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Behav Res Ther. 2009 Aug;47(8):637-44. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 Apr 22.

Affective regulation in trichotillomania: Evidence from a large-scale internet survey.

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  • 1Wesleyan University, Department of Psychology, 207 High St., Middletown, CT 05459, USA.


Trichotillomania (TTM), a repetitive hair-pulling disorder, is underrepresented in the clinical literature. The current project explores the relationship between affective regulation and disordered hair-pulling. Previous research suggests that cycles of emotional states are correlated with the disorder and may induce, reinforce, or otherwise contribute to hair-pulling behavior. We use anonymous internet survey responses from 1162 self-identified hair-pullers to address four questions about affective regulation in people with TTM: (1) Do hair-pullers experience greater difficulty "snapping out" of affective states than non-pullers? (2) Does difficulty with emotional control correlate with TTM severity? (3) Are subtypes identifiable based on the emotions that trigger hair-pulling behavior? (4) Does difficulty "snapping out" of an emotion predict whether that emotion triggers pulling behavior? The results showed a small-to-moderate relationship between affective regulation and problematic hair-pulling. In addition, individual patterns of emotion regulation were systematically related to emotional cues for hair-pulling as well as overall hair-pulling severity. These findings contribute to an understanding of the phenomenology of TTM and provide empirical support for treatments focused on affect regulation.

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