There’s a form of hair loss that is not often discussed because those who suffer from it may feel ashamed and at fault. It’s called trichotillomania, and it’s a psychological disorder that causes a compelling impulse to pull out one’s own hair. Sometimes linked to stressful situations, it can cause bald spots that embarrass some sufferers to the point of hiding in their homes.
Many of the more than two million adults who suffer from trichotillomania have been prescribed SSRI antidepressants, but recent studies have shown that these haven’t been effective in relieving symptoms. A recent psychiatric study, however, introduces a new non-prescription treatment idea that may be the answer hair pullers have been hoping for.
Fifty trichotillomania sufferers were given a daily dose of an over-the-counter antioxidant amino acid supplement called N-acetylcysteine, which can be purchased at mainstream nutrition and health stores. After 12 weeks of 1,200- to 2,400-mg pills, more than half of the participants saw a 40% improvement in their hair-pulling symptoms.
It is believed that the N-acetylcysteine can reduce the activity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter than can overwhelm the brain with compulsive urges. In addition to reducing trichotillomania symptoms, the researchers say, N-acetylcysteine may help with obsessive compulsive disorder and addictions.
If you believe you may suffer from trichotillomania or could be helped by this supplement, talk to a doctor before self-diagnosing or self-treating.
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