It seems trichotillomania has a strong genetic component after a study confirmed a certain gene mutation predicted the disorder in families.

Trichotillomania, the mental health condition that involves people pulling out hairs from various locations on the body, can add significant distress to a person’s life. In a search to better understand and treat the condition, experts hope to find the source of trichotillomania and its symptoms.

Some combination of environmental and biological factors tend to influence the presence of mental health disorders, including trichotillomania. By identifying trichotillomania as a genetic disease or an environmental disorder, people can better prevent and treat the condition.  

Trichotillomania Research

To learn if a condition develops because of genetic or environmental influences, scientists and mental health experts must perform a variety of experiments to pinpoint factors that cause trichotillomania to present in some people but not others. Depending on the goals and basis of the investigation, the research may study people with trichotillomania, perform testing on their family members or both.

Much of trichotillomania research centers around one specific gene called SLITKR1. Researchers showed interest in this gene because previous studies have linked it to similar mental health conditions that also involve repetitive and uncontrollable behaviors, like Tourette’s syndrome.

One study investigated 44 families where at least one member had trichotillomania to look for common genetic traits. The study found that the SLITK1 gene was mutated (abnormal) in the family members with the condition, but not in the family members without trichotillomania.

This evidence shows a definite connection between genetic differences and the onset of trichotillomania in people studied.

Is Trichotillomania Inherited?

Based on the findings of this study, one can conclude there is clear proof showing trichotillomania is an inherited mental health condition. However, there is more to the story.

Researchers believe mutations of the SLITRK1 gene only account for about 5 percent of all existing cases of trichotillomania. This result could mean that other genes factor into the development of the condition, or that additional environmental and biological risk factors also play a significant role in the emergence of trichotillomania.

People with high levels of stress and tension are more prone to hair-pulling disorder as a way to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Brain scans show that people with trichotillomania have small differences in some areas of the brain compared to people without the disorder, which suggests that brain development abnormalities could play a role in the condition’s development.

So, is trichotillomania inherited? Yes, it can be, but other factors also contribute to the condition. As research and studies continue, understanding of the causes of trichotillomania and other mental health disorders will increase and improve prevention and treatment options.

If you’re interested in learning more about treatment options for co-occurring trichotillomania and substance use disorders, call The Recovery Village today. When you do, you can move toward helpful interventions to address all mental health and substance use issues.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

BBC World News. “Hair Pulling Disorder Gene Found.” September 29, 2006. Accessed on April 3, 2019.

National Organization of Rare Disorders. “Trichotillomania.” 2017. Accessed on April 3, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.