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Trichotillomania and co-occurring anxiety

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Grant, JE 
Redden, SA 
Leppink, EW 
Chamberlain, SR 


Background: Trichotillomania appears to be a fairly common disorder, with high rates of co-occurring anxiety disorders. Many individuals with trichotillomania also report that pulling worsens during periods of increased anxiety. Even with these clinical links to anxiety, little research has explored whether trichotillomania with co-occurring anxiety is a meaningful subtype.

Methods: One hundred sixty-five adults with trichotillomania were examined on a variety of clinical measures including symptom severity, functioning, and comorbidity. Participants also underwent cognitive testing assessing motor inhibition and cognitive flexibility. Clinical features and cognitive functioning were compared between those with current co-occurring anxiety disorders (i.e. social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and anxiety disorder NOS) (n = 38) and those with no anxiety disorder (n = 127).

Results: Participants with trichotillomania and co-occurring anxiety reported significantly worse hair pulling symptoms, were more likely to have co-occurring depression, and were more likely to have a first-degree relative with obsessive compulsive disorder. Those with anxiety disorders also exhibited significantly worse motor inhibitory performance on a task of motor inhibition (stop-signal task).

Conclusions: This study suggests that anxiety disorders affect the clinical presentation of hair pulling behavior. Further research is needed to validate our findings and to consider whether treatments should be specially tailored differently for adults with trichotillomania who have co-occurring anxiety disorders, or more pronounced cognitive impairment.



Adult, Anxiety Disorders, Cognition Disorders, Comorbidity, Depressive Disorder, Female, Humans, Male, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Trichotillomania, Young Adult

Journal Title

Comprehensive Psychiatry

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Academy of Medical Sciences (unknown)
Wellcome Trust (110049/Z/15/Z)