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Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Children)

Hair Pulling and Anxiety

08/21/2007

Question:

I have a 2 year old who is twisting her hair, which wouldn`t be a problem except she is twisting it to where it is is falling out. She has a huge bald spot in the back of her head. Are their any types of shampoo that I can use on her hair? I just moved out of state away from her father, due to a divorce. Is she doing it due to stress? What can I do?

Answer:

Hair pulling can be a sign of anxiety but in this case it is hard to know the source of this behavior and probably it is unrelated to your family’s recent stress. Distracting the child from hair pulling or twisting, and/or providing an alternative activity, or covering the scalp can be effective in a toddler. Choice of shampoo is not likely to have much of an impact one way or another. If this behavior persists for longer than 3 months, I would seek a referral from your pediatrician.

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Response by:

Floyd R Sallee, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati