Phobias are extreme fears of certain objects or situations. The term trichophobia comes from the Greek words that mean “hair” (trichos) and “fear” (phobia). A person who has trichophobia has a persistent fear of hair, particularly seeing or touching loose hairs on the body, clothing, or elsewhere. This fear can lead to a number of symptoms that may interfere with everyday life.
Symptoms of trichophobia and other specific phobias are individual. This means that particular physical or emotional symptoms people experience when feeling fear varies from person to person.
Physical symptoms might include:
- increased heart rate
- dilation of pupils
- hot or cold flashes
- increased blood pressure
- difficulty breathing
- dizziness or lightheadedness
Emotional symptoms might include:
- anxiety or panic attacks
- an overwhelming need to escape situations that trigger fear
- feeling a loss of control
- feeling powerless
- feeling detached from yourself
- feeling you may pass out or die
Children often experience a different set of symptoms with phobias. They may not be able to express their fear as readily as adults. As a result, a child may cry, have a tantrum, or cling to their caregiver when afraid.
Pinpointing the exact cause of your trichophobia may be difficult. The fear may come on suddenly or develop gradually over time. Some researchers believe it may arise from:
- stress or anxiety
- depression or other mental health conditions, such as trichotillomania
- obsessive compulsive disorder
Other risk factors may make a person more susceptible to specific phobias as well. They include:
- Experience. This may mean having a bad experience with hair, haircuts, or other traumatic situation related to hair, such as patterned hair loss.
- Age. Phobias are known to affect children and adults alike. Some may show up as early as age 10 or have a later onset.
- Family. Having a close relative who also deals with phobias or anxiety may also put you at higher risk for developing fears yourself. This can be genetically inherited or a learned behavior.
- Disposition. People with more sensitive temperaments may be at a higher risk of developing phobias.
- Information. People may also develop fear by reading about or hearing about traumatic situations that involve the feared object.
If your fear of hair is starting to take over your life, there is help. While trichophobia itself is considered rare, experts estimate that between 7 to 9 percent of the population is affected by specific phobias.
Phobias are formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Trichophobia falls under the “other” category in phobias. Your doctor may use the DSM-5 to help diagnosis your phobia based on various criteria.
You may ask yourself:
- Has my fear been persistent for six months or longer?
- Do I overly anticipate situations where hair might be involved, such as haircuts?
- Do I feel panic or fear while I’m around hair or touching hair?
- Do I recognize that my fear of hair may be irrational?
- Do I avoid situations where I might be around hair or be forced to touch hair?
If you answered yes to these questions, consider making an appointment with your doctor. You may fit the diagnostic criteria set by the DSM-5. At your appointment, your doctor will also likely ask you questions about your medical history and for more details about the symptoms you’re experiencing.
While a phobia can feel simply annoying at first, it may eventually disrupt your everyday tasks, impacting your ability to function at work or in social situations. The good news is that there are a variety of treatments that may help you overcome your fear.
A licensed mental health professional can offer help for trichophobia. The most effective methods are cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves exposing a person to the thing they fear and employing other techniques to cope with the fear. The focus with CBT is on gaining confidence with your thoughts and feelings — mastering them — versus being overcome by them.
- Exposure therapy provides repeated exposure to a feared object or situation — in this case, hair — gradually over time. Through exposure, experiencing different thoughts and feelings associated with fear may help you get to the root of your phobia and find ways to manage it.
While therapy is often the first choice to treat phobias, certain medications may also be helpful to manage panic attacks and reduce overall anxiety. Some medication options include:
- Beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline on the body — for example, raising blood pressure or making you feel shaky.
- Sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, can also mellow the effects of anxiety. However, sedatives should be avoided by people with a history of drug or alcohol dependence.
Use of medication is often looked at as a short-term solution for specific or infrequent situations where a person is exposed to their fear. As a result, it may not be appropriate in all situations or for all people.
There are also complementary remedies that may help with fear related to phobias, though more research is needed specific to trichophobia. A trained naturopath or other alternative practitioner can help guide you if you’re interested in these options. They might include one or a combination of these:
- certain herbal blends intended to balance the body and brain
- chiropractic treatment
- relaxation techniques
Treatment outcomes will vary depending on the individual, the approach, and the severity of the phobia. Mild fear may respond well to lifestyle changes that address stress levels and anxiety, like deep breathing, walking, or doing yoga.
For more severe phobia, contact your doctor. CBT or certain medications may help you, and they may be more effective the sooner you start them.
Without treatment, specific phobias have the potential to lead to isolation, mood disorders, substance use disorder, or more serious complications, such as suicide. Remember that there’s support available, and you’re not alone. Talk to your healthcare provider for guidance about support groups and other resources.