Symptom accommodation, trichotillomania-by-proxy, and interpersonal functioning in trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder).Compr Psychiatry. 2016 Feb; 65:88-97.CP
This study investigated relationship functioning in trichotillomania (TTM) as well as specific interpersonal behaviors that have received little attention in TTM research, including by-proxy pulling, symptom accommodation, and self-disclosure. The objective was to contribute data for future development of components of treatment that focus on interpersonal functioning.
Data were collected through survey about relationships and related difficulties among adults who endorsed criteria consistent with DSM-5 criteria for TTM (n=670).
Consistent with our hypotheses, TTM symptom severity was correlated negatively with relationship satisfaction and perceived social support, positively with perceived criticism, perceived risk in intimacy, and social interaction anxiety, though these correlations were small (absolute values r=.08 to .17). Approximately one-quarter of survey respondents had not told their closest friend about their trichotillomania, and one-fifth had not told their spouse or long-term romantic partner. TTM-by-proxy urges were reported by 54% of participants, and 37% of participants reported having actually pulled hair from other people, with the most common proxies specified as significant others (51%), parents (13%), friends (8%), siblings (8%), children (7%) and pets (5%). Higher levels of TTM-by-proxy urges were associated with "focused" pulling (d=.37) and perfectionistic thinking (d=.16 to .20), yet current by-proxy urges were not associated with, functional impairment. A small minority of individuals (7%) reported having asked other people to pull hair for them (78% of these requests were granted); there was increased endorsement of "focused" pulling among these individuals. The people who participants asked to pull hairs for them included significant others (66%), mothers (20%), siblings (11%), friends (9%) and one's children (9%).
More than one-third of respondents had pulled hair from others, 7% had asked others to pull their hair, and sizable minorities kept TTM secret from their closest friends or even spouse/partners. Clinical levels of social interaction anxiety were endorsed by 51% of the sample. Understanding these interpersonal experiences more fully could improve our understanding of relationship functioning in TTM and guide efforts to individualize treatment for adults with TTM.