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Unusual Child Problem: Pulling hair out

F. Frank LeFever flefever at ix.netcom.com
Tue Mar 16 23:29:36 EST 1999

Gordon is basically right, inasmuch as none of the cases of anything
described in the newsgroup can be definitively diagnosed "at a
distance".  However, it sometimes helps to suggest diagnoses so as to
guide an appropriate search for an answer--one's family physician may
or may not be sharp enough to think of all the options or ready enough
to refer to a specialist (even assuming the physician thinks of the
appropriate kind of specialist).

There is a well-known phenomenon of hair-pulling, with a technical term
which maddingly eludes me (much TOT...long name, begins with
T..."Trichotillia"? ? ?); surely someone in the newsgroup will post it
before I get to work and to a medical dictionary.

The disorder is "neuropsychiatric" one might say, i.e. based on
neurochemical factors more than interpersonal or intrapsychic factors
(hence "neurological" rather than "psychological" in the popular sense
of these words), and perhaps first-cousin to OCD, responding to similar
medications (selective serotonin reuptake blockers)--even in the canine
equivalent.  Judy Rappaport and her group at NIMH studied this quite
thoroughly a few years ago (20 yrs?).

F. Frank LeFever, Ph.D.
New York Neuropsychology Group

In <36EF17B4.1FB70CD at unsw.edu.au> Gordon Coleman
<G.Coleman at unsw.edu.au> writes: 
>Editor wrote:
>> My 4 year old daughter pulls her hair out in her sleep and recently
>> she is tired or hungry also in daytime.
>> She has a big bold spot now on top of her head. Are we dealing here
>> a neurological disease or what is the diagnosis ?
>No-one on this group can tell you what the diagnosis is - at least,
>based on the information you're giving us.  The son of a friend of
>began doing this during his first year at school.  They sought medical
>advice, and were told it was probably related to stress (possibly
>bullying by other children, or maybe just the stress of unfamiliar
>circumstances).  They talked to him about it, and the behaviour
>subsided. I don't think they ever worked out what the stressor was,
>the behaviour hasn't recurred.
>There could be a neurological basis, but there's no point jumping to
>conclusions.  Consult your family doctor, and allow them to point you
>a specialist if need be.

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