A Hair-Pulling Illness - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/15/06

A Hair-Pulling Illness

We've all had days where we've felt like pulling our hair out. But for up to five percent of Americans that urge is out of control and it becomes a real illness known as Trichotillomania.

The cause has been a mystery, until now. Scientists have discovered the problem in some cases is genetic. Researchers at Duke University say the gene known as Slit-Rki may be to blame something that confirms there can be a biological reason for that habit.

"For patients that's important, because they know it is not my fault it isn't something I can control," said Allison Ashley-Koch a Duke university Researcher.

"It makes you feel like, it's okay that you don't have complete control over it, like okay, there is a reason for it. There are genetic links," said Amy Berry, who has Trichotillomania.

Amy has struggled with Trichotillomania since she was in junior high. Currently there is no specific treatment for Trichotillomania, although it is sometimes successfully treated with drugs that are also used for depression and anxiety disorders.

But scientists are hopeful that finding genetic links will lead to new therapies and raise awareness about a disorder that damages both the scalp and the self esteem. The genetic link for chronic hair pulling was found in the same area as a gene for another impulse control disorder Tourette's Syndrome, which triggers uncontrolled movements or sounds.

The results of this study will appear in the October 2006 issue of the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry.

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