As a star of the HBO series “Newsroom”, few would question the confidence and self-assurance of Olivia Munn. Her facade masks a secret. She is one of as many as nine million Americans with trichotillomania (TTM; Hair Pulling Disorder). Her anxiety causes her to pull her eye lashes out.
In an interview with the Daily News which appeared Sunday, HBO star Olivia Munn described the eye lash pulling brought on by her anxiety. It is an impulse control disorder called trichotillomania. The disorder is characterized by repeated pulling of one’s hair for non-cosmetic reasons. The scalp and the eye lashes are common but other areas of the body may also be used.
Women experience TTM at a rate of 9:1 over men. The mean age of onset is 11 to 13. In children under six, the disorder often disappears with age. Many patients with treatment will see relief within a year. Other may have a life long struggle.
Trichotillomania is often seen in patients with depression, anxiety or poor self image. Patients experience an increasing tension and urge that can only be relieved by hair pulling. They often feel relief, gratification or pleasure at the sensations produced.
Munn ties her TTM to her childhood. As a military child, she moved from base to base. “As an Air Force kid, I moved around a lot when I was younger and no one was nice to the new kid. So there is always this feeling that someone will make fun of me.”
TTM treatment can vary. Medication to relieve anxiety and depression can be successful in many patients. Others may find therapy useful. Reducing the patient’s stress is helpful. Munn does not say if she is receiving treatment but does say that the support of her friends is very important to her.