What Is Trichophobia?

Have you ever heard about Trichophobia? Some may say no, but maybe you just don’t recognize this phobia by its name. Others may have no idea that some people deal with this fear. If you are curious, keep on reading to find out more about this curious condition. 

The term trichophobia comes from the Greek words “tricho”, which means hair, and the word “phobos”, which means fear. So, what is Trichophobia? It is a phobia that can be described as a disproportionate and persistent fear or disgust towards the hair. This phobia can include hair on a person’s head or loose hair that you might find on your clothes, body or different surfaces.

Do you want to find out more about this phobia? In the following paragraphs, we are going to discuss the symptoms of trichophobia, the possible causes, triggers, and risk factors, how it is diagnosed, and its treatment and prevention. 

Overview

A phobia is a disproportionate and debilitating fear of an object, situation, animal or even a feeling. Phobias differ from fears because they are more pronounced, which means that a lot of the time, these people might actually reorganize their lives or change behaviours just to avoid the thing or situation that causes their phobia.1

Trichophobia is a phobia that can be described as a disproportionate and persistent fear or disgust towards the hair. This phobia can include hair on a person’s head or loose hair that you might find on your clothes, body or different surfaces. Trichophobia is also considered a specific phobia. Specific phobias are characterized by an irrational and excessive fear of certain objects or situations that are not typically dangerous yet trigger strong feelings of anxiety and avoidance.2

Symptoms of trichophobia

While Trichophobia symptoms are always caused by hair, they may differ depending on the person and might also vary regarding their severity. Similar to other phobias, the symptoms can be divided into physical and emotional; people usually suffer from both.3

Types of symptoms for trichophobia

Emotional symptoms may include:

  1. Experiencing strong aversion or disgust toward hair
  2. Feeling intense anxiety or panic
  3. Lacking control over the situation
  4. Feeling the need to escape
  5. Sensing danger
  6. Avoiding situations that may cause their encounter with hair (excessive cleaning or putting hair up)1,3

Physical symptoms can include:

  1. Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  2. Nausea
  3. Sweating
  4. Experiencing an increased pulse or palpitations
  5. Difficulty breathing
  6. Trembling or shaking
  7. Breathing rapidly
  8. An upset stomach1,3

Causes of trichophobia

Despite current research, the exact cause of specific phobias remains unknown. However, there were identified several factors that may contribute to the development of specific phobias like trichophobia, such as:

  • Direct learning: A lot of times, specific phobias happen thanks to previous negative encounters or panic attacks associated with a specific object or situation.2
  • Genetics and environment: A person's specific phobia may be linked to a genetic predisposition or to a learned behaviour that has been passed down from parents or other family members who also suffer from the same phobia.2
  • Brain function: Changes in brain activity and chemistry may also take part in the onset of specific phobias.2
  • Informational learning:  People can also become fearful of a particular situation after learning about its potential danger through different sources such as a newspaper or tv.4

Another cause that could be linked with the fear of hair, more specifically of loose hair on the skin, is a potential fear of disease or contamination. Some individuals may believe that hair is a source of contamination, which can lead them to develop a fear of finding loose hair on their bodies or house surfaces. 3

Triggers and risk factors

There are a number of factors that can contribute to increasing the risk of dealing with specific phobias. Some of these factors include:

  • Age: A lot of specific phobias tend to appear during the first decade of your childhood, while others can take place later in life.2
  • Relatives: Having a close relative with a specific phobia could mean that you have a higher chance of having the same phobia. This could happen through an inherited tendency or by observing a relative's phobia towards hair, in this case. So, as an example, if you see that your mum constantly avoids having contact with hair or is always cleaning obsessively all loose hair, this can lead you to develop the same fear.2
  • Disposition: Your personality may influence the development of a specific phobia; for example, you can be more sensitive to specific stimuli or situations.2
  • Negative experience: As mentioned before, facing a disturbing or traumatic event may trigger the development of a specific phobia.2

How is it diagnosed?

Because trichophobia is not considered a separate condition, the diagnosis can be made based on the criteria used to diagnose a specific phobia.3

The criteria used to determine if you have a particular phobia include:

  • Disproportionate and unreasonable fear of an object or situation, in this case, of hair or loose hair.
  • Anxiety and panic response to the source of the fear, again in this case, when in contact with hair.
  • Avoidance of contact with the object or avoidance of the situation.
  • Feeling a significant impact of this fear on the individual’s life a daily basis.3

Complication

In general, phobias that are left untreated can significantly influence one’s life. Some of the complications that phobias can cause include:

  • Social Isolation: Avoiding going places or objects that a person fears might condition this person’s academic and professional life or relationships.2
  • Substance Abuse: The constant stress and anxiety that results from having a phobia can lead these patients to use alcohol or even drugs.2
  • Other disorders: Because of the fear that the phobia causes, a lot of these patients deal with other conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Besides Trichophobia, some patients may also suffer from OCD or trichotillomania (a mental disorder, also known as hair-pulling disorder, where people feel uncontrollable urges to pull out their hair).3,5

Treatment and prevention

A lot of phobias don’t require treatment, and all it takes is for the person to avoid the object or situation of fear to control the problem. Nonetheless, some objects or situations are impossible to avoid or condition your daily life.

The main treatment types that are used to control or improve phobias include:

  • Talking treatments: These treatments include counselling and are frequently effective at treating phobias. One type of counselling is cognitive behavioural therapy. This type of therapy aims to help the patient manage their fear by changing their perspective and behaviour towards it. One part of this treatment is gradual exposure to the fear, in this case, gradual exposure to hair or loose hair.6
  • Self-help treatments: These treatments include the self-implementation of several strategies to overcome a phobia. These strategies might include lifestyle changes, exposure therapy, attending self-help groups, and learning relaxation techniques among others.6,7
  • Medication: medication is usually only recommended to treat some of the effects or symptoms of the phobia, such as anxiety or panic attacks. Some of the different types of medication prescribed include antidepressants, tranquillisers or beta-blockers.6

When to seek medical attention?

A fear is considered a phobia if it seriously interrupts and influences your daily life. If your phobia is influencing your daily basis or causing extreme anxiety and stress, it would be a good idea to talk to a health professional about it. Early access to therapy could be beneficial to address trichophobia and help you overcome this phobia.2

Summary

A phobia is a disproportionate and debilitating fear of an object, situation, animal or even a feeling. Phobias differ from fears because they are more pronounced, which means that a lot of the time, these people might actually reorganize their life or change behaviours just to avoid the thing or situation that causes their phobia. Trichophobia is a phobia that can be described as a disproportionate and persistent fear or disgust towards the hair. This phobia can include hair on a person’s head or loose hair that you might find on your clothes, body or different surfaces. Trichophobia is also considered a specific phobia. Specific phobias are characterized by an irrational and excessive fear of certain objects or situations that are not typically dangerous yet trigger strong feelings of anxiety and avoidance. Some of the symptoms can include a strong aversion or disgust toward hair, intense anxiety or panic, lack of control over the situation, a strong desire to escape, avoiding situations that may cause their encounter with hair, feeling dizzy, nauseous, sweating or having difficulty breathing. There are several factors that may contribute to the development of specific phobias like trichophobia, such as direct learning, genetics and environment, brain function, and informational learning.  The main treatment types that are used to control or improve phobias include talking treatments, which include cognitive behavioural therapy, self-help treatments, and medication.

References

  1. Overview - phobias [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [citado 9 de março de 2023]. Disponível em: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/overview/
  2. Specific phobias - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [citado 9 de março de 2023]. Disponível em: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/symptoms-causes/syc-20355156
  3. How to cope with trichopobia(The fear of hair) [Internet]. Verywell Mind. [citado 9 de março de 2023]. Disponível em: https://www.verywellmind.com/trichophobia-coping-with-the-fear-of-hair-4799621
  4. Specific phobias (Symptoms) | center for the treatment and study of anxiety | perelman school of medicine at the university of pennsylvania [Internet]. [citado 9 de março de 2023]. Disponível em: https://www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/phobias_symptoms.html
  5. Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2022. Disponível em: https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/diseases-conditions/trichotillomania/symptoms-causes/syc-20355188
  6. Treatment - phobias [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [citado 9 de março de 2023]. Disponível em: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/treatment/
  7. Self-help - Phobias [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [citado 9 de março de 2023]. Disponível em: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/self-help/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Joana Carneiro

Masters of Public Health - Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Lisboa

Joana is a recent graduate, who has a Degree in Biomedical Sciences and a Master's Degree in Public Health. She has more than two years of experience working as a healthcare professional in both private and public settings and more than 4 years of experience working as a volunteer in a non-profit organization, helping disadvantaged communities. Joana is passionate about public health, specifically about everything related to health education, health communication and health equity.

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