The phenomenology of hairpulling in college students

Danny C. Duke, Mary L. Keeley, Emily J. Ricketts, Gary R. Geffken, Eric A. Storch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This study examined the phenomenology of hairpulling in a large nonclinical college student sample. Given that hairpulling is conceptualized as occurring on a continuum of severity, we expected to inform the assessment and treatment of Trichotillomania (TTM) by examining hairpulling behavior across its range of presentation. Hairpulling occurred at a rate of 9.7%, while average age of onset was 13.57 years. Self-reported hairpulling styles were identified with 31.3% endorsing focused hairpulling, while 68.7% endorsed an automatic hairpulling style. The most commonly endorsed ritual was "examine the root (37.3%) while the scalp was the most frequently endorsed hairpulling site (49%). Eyelashes were more frequently endorsed as a pulling site by focused (43.8) compared to automatic (5.7%) hairpullers. The hairpulling environments most often endorsed were "while reading" and "while studying" (75%). Affective states were found to change across the pulling cycle in support of hairpulling serving in an emotion regulation capacity. Focused hairpullers endorsed significantly higher trait anxiety than automatic hairpullers. Depression scores (BDI) were elevated for hairpullers compared to nonhairpullers. Implications for assessment and treatment were discussed and directions for future research were provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-292
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • College Student
  • Hair
  • Hairpulling
  • Phenomenology
  • Trichotillomania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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