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Food Supplement For Compulsive Hair Pulling

Food Supplement For Compulsive DisorderResearchers have discovered that a common antioxidant, widely available as a health food supplement, may help stop the urges of those with trichotillomania, a disorder characterized by compulsive hair-pulling.

In the double-blind study, University of Minnesota researchers enrolled fifty people for a 12-week period; half were given N-Acetylcysteine, an amino acid commonly found in health food supplements.
It’s an amino acid also know as N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, when sold as a vitamin supplement.

The average age of patients who enrolled was about 34, and most started pulling hair compulsively by the age of 12. Patients were given 1,200 mg of N-Acetylcysteine every day for six weeks.

For the following six weeks, the dosage was increased to 2,400 mg per day. After nine weeks, those on supplement had significantly reduced hair-pulling. By the end of the 12-week study, 56 percent reported feeling much or very much improved, while only 16 percent on the placebo reported less pulling.

“Trichotillomania is compulsive in the sense that people can’t control it. People feel unable to stop the behavior even though they know it is causing negative consequences,” said Jon Grant, M.D., J.D., a University of Minnesota associate professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of the study.

“Some people don’t even know they are doing it.”

Those who have trichotillomania compulsively or habitually pull their hair to the point of noticeable loss. It is most commonly associated with women, but men can also be affected, and pulling can occur anywhere on the body. Grant believes 2 to 4 percent of the general population is impacted by trichotillomania on some level.

“These are people who have tried all kinds of things that have never worked,” Grant said.

“The reality is that if you pull hair and it is on a noticeable part of the body, people are really disabled by this. It’s not easy to go out in public if people are noticing your bald spots. Self esteem is a huge problem. This supplement may offer hope.”

The study is significant on another level because it’s one of the first studies of compulsive behaviors to look at lowering levels of glutamate – a chemical that triggers excitement – in the brain to curb harmful behavior rather than serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical most commonly linked to compulsive behavior.

This supplement affects levels of glutamate in a specific area of the brain, making it easier for patients to put the brakes on their harmful behavior.

For that reason, Grant believes glutamate modulators such as N-Acetylcysteine may be applicable to other disorders, addictions, and compulsive behaviors.

The study is published in the July, 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Source: University of Minnesota

Food Supplement For Compulsive Hair Pulling

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Food Supplement For Compulsive Hair Pulling. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/07/08/food-supplement-for-compulsive-hair-pulling/6963.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.