Hair Pulling in Children: The First Step In Getting Your Child to Stop

by Abby Leora Rohrer

By far, the most common question regarding the hair loss in children, due to trichotillomania, that I receive from parents is, "How do we get our hair pulling child to stop?"

This question bothers me more than any other. To me it implies that it's your child's hair loss IS the problem and that if you can only GET her to stop, everything will be great.  If you approach the child hair pulling issue in this way, whether you mean to or not, you are giving your child the message that her hair is far more important than what's going on inside of her at the deepest level.

Dear Abby,

Ok so I have this hair pulling problem and it bothers me so much!

know I don't want to do it but I just can't stop. I thought I was the only person in the world who did it. It's also sort of nerve-racking when you go to school and see all these girls who have long beautiful hair and care about it, but then you look at yourself, and you finally realize what you are doing to yourself and you wonder if there is some way you can stop.

It is really hard. My parents try to help me, but sometimes they can be mean about it, because they want me to stop so badly. But really what they have to realize is that it is really hard to stop because now, I have turned it into a bad bad habit. But I guess why they get mean about it is because they are only thinking about there own perspective, so they think it is easy. I need some help bad! Please help me!


My work is about going deeper to discover the hidden reasons why people pull their hair out.  I teach parents to view hair pulling in children in a different way than you may have encountered in the past.  In my experience, your child's hair pulling is just a SYMPTOM of a larger problem in your world of your child.  It's like a warning beacon signaling that something is amiss or is going awfully wrong. 

We could say that the larger problem stems from the way that your child deals with and processes her feelings but it's important to go even deeper than this, to a level or two below this simplistic explanation.

Why go deeper?  Because it's not just a matter of "how to stop my child from hair pulling".  I don't mean to minimize the social impact, but hair is just hair, after all.  The crucial thing is the deeper mental and emotional state of your child as she progresses through life, isn't it?   Not only must she learn better ways of dealing with stressful life issues, but WHY isn't she coping in a more self-empowering way?  All of my books and healing materials are focused on going beneath the surface to identify and solve these larger system problems. 

As an ex-hairpuller and mentor to hair pullers working on healing, I have adult students whose parents tried everything on earth to try to get them to stop hair pulling.  One particular student comes to mind as I write this.  A hair puller from the earliest years of life, her parents took her to every imaginable practitioner, from therapist to hypnotist, from hair pulling medication for children to wearing band-aids on her fingers and counting hairs pulled for more than fifteen years, but none of this family's investment in time or money paid off or addressed the deeper issues involved. 

Other parents dreadfully feel trichotillomania is a genetic* disorder.  This sends them endlessly looking for medical solutions which can become very demoralizing to a child.

My own parents took the opposite approach and ignored my pulling altogether.  Pretty soon I hid it from everyone.  As soon as I reached adulthood, I began trying nearly every imaginable solution. 

I have logged many hundreds of hours on therapists' sofas but that never solved my hair pulling or my inner emotional pain. Eventually, I found my own solution and began to teach others how to stop hair pulling by looking beneath the "stigma" to the deeper issues involved.

You Have The Power

What I discovered in my own healing is that ending trichotillomania is an inside job. No solution can be found outside the sufferer.  But, every parent has the power to help their child end hair pulling given the right perspective, an open attitude, and a few good tools.  Depending on your child's age and how long she's been pulling, some or all of that inner work can be accomplished within the family system, by one or both parents. My advice to you is to start TODAY to consider the deeper, more systemic issues that may be troubling her. 

If you’d like more help to help your child stop hair pulling you can visit my HairPullingChild web site which discusses my book, Why Won't My Child Stop Hair Pulling?   It's a great place to begin. It is also available from this website and can be purchased right now using this order link >> Why Won't My Child Stop Hair Pulling? 

*To date, trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling, has never been proven to be hereditary.