Skip to content

    Mental Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Hair Pulling Disorder Tied to Genes

    Faulty Genes May Trigger Trichotillomania in Some Families

    WebMD Health News

    Sept. 27, 2006 -- Bad genes may be at least partially to blame for wanting to pull your hair out.

    A new study suggests mutations in a gene called SLITKR1 may play a role in the development of trichotillomania in some families. The mental disorder causes people to compulsively pull their hair out, resulting in noticeable hair losshair loss and bald spots.

    Researcher Stephan Züchner, MD, of the Duke Center for Human Genetics, says genetic mutations only account for a small fraction of trichotillomania cases, but the findings may help lead to a better understanding of the unusual disorder.

    "Society still holds negative perceptions about psychiatric conditions such as trichotillomania. But, if we can show they have a genetic origin, we can improve diagnosis, develop new therapies, and reduce the stereotypes associated with mental illness," says Züchner, in a news release.

    Gene Tied to Hair Pulling

    Researchers say trichotillomania affects between 3% and 5% of the population. It's considered an impulse control disorder and can be accompanied by other mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depressiondepression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or Tourette's syndrome.

    In the study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers studied 44 families in which one or more members had trichotillomania.

    They focused on the gene SLITRK1 because a previous study had linked it to Tourette's syndrome, a related impulse-control disorder.

    The study showed two mutations in this gene were found among family members with trichotillamania, but not in unaffected family members.

    More Genes Likely Involved

    Researchers estimate these mutations account for about 5% of trichotillomania cases.

    Although the SLITRK1 gene is the first to be linked to trichotillomania, researchers say many other genes likely contribute to the disorder.

    "The SLITRK1 gene could be among many other genes that are likely [to] interact with each other and environmental factors to trigger trichotillomania and other psychiatric conditions," says researcher Allison Ashley-Koch, PhD, assistant professor of medical genetics at Duke University, in the release.

    Today on WebMD

    contemplation
    Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
    lunar eclipse
    Signs of mania and depression.
     
    man screaming
    Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
    woman looking into fridge
    When food controls you.
     
    Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
    Article
    senior man eating a cake
    Article
     
    Phobias
    Slideshow
    woman reading medicine warnings
    Article
     
    depressed young woman
    Article
    man with arms on table
    Article
     
    veteran
    Article
    man cringing and covering ears
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections