Can OCD and Other Personality Disorders Lead to Hair Loss?

The first step in determining if OCD can lead to hair loss is to understand what OCD is and the impact it can have on your life.

OCDOCD is short for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  It’s an anxiety disorder that is known to cause fear, worry and unease due to intrusive thoughts.  A person suffering from OCD performs repetitive behaviors in the hope of relieving the anxiety regardless of the effect it has on their personal and professional lives.

Some common examples of OCD behavior include opening and closing a door a certain number of times each time a person enters or leaves a room, checking the locks on a door multiple times even though they have already been locked and only following certain paths while walking through a building or on a street.

A hair loss problem can come about due to the OCD behavior of a person suffering from the disorder.  Examples of OCD behavior when it comes to your hair include compulsive pulling on hair, which can lead to the hair being pulled out and twirling hair while thinking about or while performing everyday tasks.

Are There Other Forms of OCD?

Another form of OCD that is damaging to hair is Dermatillomania.  This condition is also known as skin-picking disorder.  Those who suffer from this disease commonly pick at the skin on their face, scalp, arms and neck.  While picking at the hairs on the scalp doesn’t target hair follicles, they can become permanently damaged thanks to the repetitive scalp picking.  The constant picking can make the skin sensitive and also causes it to lose its ability to heal properly.  Sometimes the hair is pulled out of the scalp by the act of scalp picking causing open sores.  Picking at the scab caused by the sore can lead to further permanent damage.

The act of repeatedly picking at the scalp can cause great damage to your hair follicles.  Since the damage to the follicles occurs below the skin, the damage is seen on the outside as thinning or patchy hair.  The greater damage below the surface of the skin is not visible to the eye.  People who suffer from this condition continue the behavior regardless of the damage it causes to the hair as well as the physical pain caused due to the act of picking at the hair and skin.  The permanent damaging of the hair as well as its follicles can lead to baldness.

Skin picking is part of a group of disorders that falls under the heading of Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB).  It can often be confused with the hair-pulling disorder known as trichotillomania.  The main difference between the two is this:

  • Hair-pulling disorders are characterized by an urge to pull the hair out of the scalp
  • Scalp-Picking is when a person wants to pick at the skin on the scalp

It’s also important to remember that skin picking can be caused by a dermatological disorder or an autoimmune problem. A clear diagnosis is vital to proper treatment of the condition.

A Difficult Situation Made Even Harder

The loss of hair is a difficult situation for any person.  The addition of a psychological condition tied to the hair loss increases the difficulty of the situation.  The first step in properly treating the condition is determining if the psychological disorder is being caused by OCD, Body Dysmorphic Disorder or depression.  Consulting with a psychologist before proceeding with any long-term treatment plan is an important step in determining if a hair transplant is a viable option for a patient.