The Influence of Hair Pulling Styles in the Treatment of Trichotillomania

Joseph F. McGuire, Nicholas S. Myers, Adam B. Lewin, Eric A. Storch, Omar Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This report investigated the improvement in Automatic and Focused styles of hair pulling among youth with trichotillomania (TTM). Youth with TTM (N = 40) participated in a clinical trial that compared habit reversal training (HRT) to treatment-as-usual (TAU). Participants completed a baseline assessment to characterize hair pulling severity, self-reported hair pulling styles, and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Youth were randomly assigned to receive eight weekly sessions of HRT or eight weeks of TAU. Afterward, youth completed a post-treatment assessment of hair pulling severity and hair pulling styles. Youth in the TAU condition then received eight weekly sessions of HRT and completed another post-treatment assessment. Analyses revealed that the Focused pulling style largely improved with HRT (d = 0.73) compared to TAU (d = 0.11). However, there was limited improvement for the Automatic pulling style following either HRT (d = 0.10) or TAU (d = -0.31). This same pattern of effects was also found during open-label treatment with HRT. Although behavior therapies such as HRT are the principle treatment for youth with TTM, the Automatic pulling style exhibited limited improvement to this therapeutic approach. Therefore, therapeutic strategies that enhance awareness to pulling behaviors may produce more robust outcomes to behavior therapy for youth with TTM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-904
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • behavior therapy
  • habit reversal training
  • hair pulling styles
  • subtypes
  • trichotillomania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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