DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY 27:611–626 (2010)
TRICHOTILLOMANIA (HAIR PULLING DISORDER), SKIN
PICKING DISORDER, AND STEREOTYPIC MOVEMENT
DISORDER: TOWARD DSM-V
Dan J. Stein, M.D. Ph.D.,1?Jon E. Grant, M.D. J.D.,2Martin E. Franklin, Ph.D.,3Nancy Keuthen, Ph.D.,4
Christine Lochner, Ph.D.,5Harvey S. Singer, M.D.,6and Douglas W. Woods, Ph.D.7
In DSM-IV-TR, trichotillomania (TTM) is classified as an impulse control
disorder (not classified elsewhere), skin picking lacks its own diagnostic category
(but might be diagnosed as an impulse control disorder not otherwise specified),
and stereotypic movement disorder is classified as a disorder usually first
diagnosed in infancy, childhood, or adolescence. ICD-10 classifies TTM as a habit
and impulse disorder, and includes stereotyped movement disorders in a section on
other behavioral and emotional disorders with onset usually occurring in
childhood and adolescence. This article provides a focused review of nosological
issues relevant to DSM-V, given recent empirical findings. This review presents a
number of options and preliminary recommendations to be considered for DSM-V:
(1) Although TTM fits optimally into a category of body-focused repetitive
behavioral disorders, in a nosology comprised of relatively few major categories
it fits best within a category of motoric obsessive–compulsive spectrum disorders,
(2) available evidence does not support continuing to include (current) diagnostic
criteria B and C for TTM in DSM-V, (3) the text for TTM should be updated to
describe subtypes and forms of hair pulling, (4) there are persuasive reasons for
referring to TTM as ‘‘hair pulling disorder (trichotillomania),’’ (5) diagnostic
criteria for skin picking disorder should be included in DSM-V or in DSM-Vs
Appendix of Criteria Sets Provided for Further Study, and (6) the diagnostic
criteria for stereotypic movement disorder should be clarified and simplified,
bringing them in line with those for hair pulling and skin picking disorder.
Depression and Anxiety 27:611–626, 2010.
rrrr2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Key words: trichotillomania; hair pulling; skin picking; stereotypic movement
Both DSM-IV and ICD-10 provide diagnostic
criteria for trichotillomania (TTM) and for stereotypic
or stereotyped movement disorder (SMD). Neither
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.
This Article is being co-published by Depression and Anxiety and
the American Psychiatric Association.
Received for publication 5 November 2009; Revised 4 March 2010;
Accepted 7 March 2010
?Correspondence to: Dan J. Stein, Department of Psychiatry,
Cape Town, South Africa 7925. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa
4Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston,
5Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, Matieland,
7Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,
rrrr 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
classification system provides diagnostic criteria for
pathological skin picking. Since the development of
DSM-IVand ICD-10, there has been ongoing research
on these conditions and this article, therefore, reviews
nosological issues relevant to a revision of the
classification systems. This article draws on an earlier
review of this topic which was written for and discussed
at a DSM-V Research Planning Conference on
Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders,as well
as on an editorial by the Scientific Advisory Board of
the Trichotillomania Learning Center.
This article was commissioned by the DSM-VAnxiety,
Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum, Post-Traumatic, and
Dissociative Disorders Work Group. It represents the
work of the authors for consideration by the work group.
Recommendations provided in this article should be considered
preliminary at this time; they do not necessarily reflect the
final recommendations or decisions that will be made for
DSM-V, as the DSM-V development process is still ongoing.
It is possible that this article’s recommendations will be
revised as additional data and input from experts and the
field are obtained.
DSM-IV AND ICD-10 DIAGNOSTIC
CRITERIA FOR TTM AND SMD
TTM was included in DSM-III-R in 1987 as an
impulse control disorder, not classified elsewhere.
Modifications in DSM-IV included expansion of
criterion B to include tension experienced when
attempting to resist hair pulling and the addition of a
clinical significance criterion E which required distress
and/or impairment (Table 1). In ICD-10, TTM is
classified in the section on disorders of adult person-
ality and behavior, as one of the habit and impulse
disorders. It is described as ‘‘A disorder characterized
by noticeable hair-loss due to a recurrent failure to
resist impulses to pull out hairs. The hair pulling is
usually preceded by mounting tension and is followed
by a sense of relief or gratification. This diagnosis
should not be made if there is a pre-existing
inflammation of the skin, or if the hair pulling is in
response to a delusion or a hallucination. Excludes:
stereotyped movement disorder with hair-plucking.’’
Stereotypic movement disorder was earlier called
Stereotypy/Habit Disorder. In DSM-IV, stereotypic
movement disorder falls under the category of Disorders
Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or
Adolescence. DSM-IV criteria for SMD are tabulated
below (Table 2). In ICD-10, SMDs are similarly classified
in the section on behavioral and emotional disorders with
onset usually occurring in childhood and adolescence.
They are characterized by ‘‘voluntary, repetitive, stereo-
typed, nonfunctional (and often rhythmic) movements
that do not form part of any recognized psychiatric or
neurological condition. When such movements occur as
symptoms of some other disorder, only the overall
disorder should be recorded. The movements that are
of a non self-injurious variety include: body-rocking,
head-rocking, hair-plucking, hair-twisting, finger-flicking
mannerisms, and hand-flapping. Stereotyped self-injur-
ious behavior includes repetitive head-banging, face-
slapping, eye-poking, and biting of hands, lips or other
body parts. All the stereotyped movement disorders
occur most frequently in association with mental
retardation (when this is the case, both should be
recorded). If eye-poking occurs in a child with visual
impairment, both should be coded: eye-poking under this
category and the visual condition under the appropriate
somatic disorder code.’’ They are noted to exclude
‘‘abnormal involuntary movements, movement disorders
of organic origin, nail-biting, nose-picking, stereotypies
that are part of a broader psychiatric condition, thumb-
sucking, tic disorders, trichotillomania.’’
STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES
This review will address the following issues:
1. Which diagnostic criteria for TTM require im-
provement? For example, does hair loss need to be
noticeable? Does there necessarily need to be an
increase in tension before hair pulling or a sense of
TABLE 1. DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for
A. Recurrent pulling out one’s hair resulting in noticeable hair loss
B. An increasing sense of tension immediately before pulling out the
hair or when attempting to resist the behavior
C. Pleasure, gratification, or relief when pulling out the hair
D. The disturbance is not better accounted for by another mental
disorder and is not due to a general medical condition (e.g. a
E. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment
in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
TABLE 2. DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for SMD
A. Repetitive, seemingly driven, and nonfunctional motor behavior
(e.g. handshaking or waving, body rocking, head banging,
mouthing of objects, self-biting, picking at skin or bodily orifices,
hitting own body)
B. The behavior markedly interferes with normal activities or results
in self-inflicted bodily injury that requires medical treatment (or
would result in an injury if preventive measures were not used)
C. If mental retardation is present, the stereotypic or self-injurious
behavior is of sufficient severity to become a focus of treatment
D. The behavior is not better accounted for by a compulsion (as in
obsessive–compulsive disorder), a tic (as in tic disorder), a
stereotypy that is part of a pervasive developmental disorder, or
hair pulling (as in trichotillomania)
E. The behavior is not due to the direct physiological effects of a
substance or a general medical condition
F. The behavior persists for 4 weeks or longer
Specifier: With self-injurious behavior: If the behavior results in
bodily damage that requires specific treatment (or that would result
in bodily damage if protective measures were not used).
612Stein et al.
Depression and Anxiety
relief at the time of hair pulling? How useful is the
clinical significance criterion? Do the diagnostic
criteria for TTM seem suitable cross-culturally,
from a developmental perspective, and for both
2. Should subtypes or specifiers of TTM be recog-
nized? Some authors have, for example, differen-
pulling, and between early-onset and late-onset
3. Should the name ‘‘trichotillomania’’ be changed?
4. Where should TTM be classified in DSM-V?
Should it be classified as an impulse control
disorder, or moved to another category (such as
body focused-repetitive behavioral disorder, or
obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder)?
5. Should skin picking be classified as a separate
disorder in DSM-V, given its prevalence and
associated morbidity? If so, what should its diag-
nostic criteria consist of, and where should it be
classified (as an impulse control disorder, as a body-
focused repetitive behavioral disorder (BFRBD), or
as an obsessive–compulsive spectrum disorder)?
6. Which diagnostic criteria for stereotypic movement
disorder require improvement, and where should it
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ISSUES
It has become recognized that TTM is a significant
public health problem; it is highly prevalent, associated
with a good deal of morbidity, and on occasion with
mortality.[3–7]Research on TTM, as well as on other
body-focused repetitive behavioral disorders (BFRBDs,
e.g. skin picking),has grown significantly since its
introduction into DSM-III-R. It is timely, therefore, to
assess whether the reliability, validity, and clinical
utility of current diagnostic criteria for TTM can be
improved, and whether the categorization of TTM as
an impulse control disorder is optimal. In view of the
emerging research on skin picking which suggests a
high prevalence, significant associated morbidity, and
response to treatment,[9–12]
question of whether a specific diagnostic entity to
cover such symptoms deserves inclusion in DSM-V.
There is also accumulating research on stereotypies,
including self-injurious behaviors, showing that these
are also highly prevalent and clinically important
symptoms, not only in populations of normal intelli-
gence, but also in patients with intellectual disability
and pervasive developmental disorders.[13–16]
we also address the
A literature search was conduced using the Pubmed
and PsychLit databases, with no time limits. Reference
sections of published articles were also examined.
Search terms included ‘‘hair pulling,’’ ‘‘skin picking,’’
‘‘trichotillomania,’’ ‘‘stereotypic movement disorder,’’
‘‘stereotyped movement disorder,’’ ‘‘stereotypy,’’ and
‘‘habit disorder.’’ The Annotated Listings of Changes
in each DSM, the DSM-IV Sourcebooks, and the
DSM-IV Options Book were consulted for details of
earlier TTM criteria revisions. The proceedings and/or
monographs of the preparatory conference series for
DSM-V, particularly the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum
Disorder conference, were also used.
WHICH DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR TTM
DSM-IV criterion A for TTM refers
to ‘‘recurrent pulling out of one’s hair resulting in
noticeable hair loss.’’ Several words in this criterion
deserve examination. The term ‘‘recurrent’’ is used in
the DSM-IV definition of obsessions, whereas the term
‘‘repetitive’’ is used in the definition of compulsions.
Both terms seem applicable to TTM, and there is no
clear reason to change the current wording. The term
‘‘pulling’’ excludes patients with pathological hair
cutting or hair biting, but these patients seem to form
a minority. The term ‘‘noticeable’’ is sometimes
inaccurate, insofar as hair pulling may be quite
localized (and so not clearly noticeable), may occur in
a distributed fashion to preclude obvious hair loss, or
may be hidden. Deleting the term may lead to some
increase in caseness, but we suspect that most decisions
about caseness involve the clinical significance criterion
(see below). We, therefore, recommend deleting the
term and clarifying in the text that although hair
pulling can lead to noticeable hair loss, such hair loss
may be disguised.
Criteria B and C.
Criterion B and C of DSM-IV,
and the ICD-10 definition of TTM, emphasize that
hair pulling is characterized by impulses to pull hair,
with rising tension before the behavior or when
attempting to resist, and relief or gratification when
pulling. However, early systematic clinical work
showed that approximately 20% of patients with
clinically meaningful hair pulling do not report either
an increasing sense of tension or a sense of pleasure/
gratification/relief related to hair pulling.Subse-
quent work in clinical settings has indicated that there
are few significant clinical differences between TTM
patients who do and do not meet criteria B and D,[18,19]
indicating that these criteria may, therefore, have poor
diagnostic validity and clinical utility. An analysis of
clinical data across sites provides further support for
the generalizability of these conclusions (Lochner and
Keuthen, unpublished data).
Similarly, in the Trichotillomania Impact Project-
Adults (TIP-A) survey of 2,268 persons with self-
reported pulling,1,711 reported pulling to the point
of noticeable hair loss and resultant impairment, and of
these individuals, 4% (n567) did not endorse both
613Review: Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)
Depression and Anxiety
criteria B and C. Furthermore, when asked how often
tension or urges were experienced before pulling hair
or when attempting to resist pulling, only 38% of the
sample reported that the urges were present ‘‘all the
time’’ (defined as 90–100% of the time). Many (43%)
reported the urges were present ‘‘most of the time’’
(71–89% of the time) before pulling, 14.5% reported
that the urges were there ‘‘some of the time’’ (30–70%
of the time), 3% said the urges were there ‘‘a little of
the time’’ (11–29% of the time), and 1.1% reported the
urges were ‘‘never or almost never’’ present (0–10% of
the time) before pulling. Likewise, when asked how
frequently they experienced a sense of pleasure or
gratification/relief after pulling hair, 40% reported ‘‘all
of the time,’’ 37.6% ‘‘most of the time,’’ 14.6%
reported ‘‘some of the time,’’ 4.4% ‘‘a little of the
time,’’ and 3.4% ‘‘none of the time.’’ In summary,
though the symptoms associated with impulse control
disorders (tension and subsequent reduction) are quite
common in people with hair pulling that leads to hair
loss, they do not seem to occur in all individuals with
the disorder and when they are present, they do not
tend to occur before all pulling episodes. In future
research, moment-by-moment monitoring of hair
pulling and associated symptoms might be useful to
confirm these data.
To explore the validity of criteria B and C in adults,
TIP-A subjects who self-reported meeting criteria A,
D, and E were broken down into those meeting criteria
B and C (reporting endorsing both symptoms at least
‘‘a little of the time’’; n51.616) and those not meeting
both B and C (n592). These two groups were then
compared on demographic variables and psychological
symptom inventories. The two groups did not differ on
the variables of current age, F(1, 1.687)50.311,
P5.577; the number of other repetitive behaviors
(i.e. nailbiting, skin picking) endorsed, F(1, 1.559)5
2.29, P5.13; Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale
(DASS) Stress scores, F(1, 1.614)51.06, P5.30;
DASS-Anxiety scores, F(1, 1.588)50.395, P5.530;
DASS-Depression scores, F(1, 1.615)50.298, P5.59;
Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS)-work impairment
scores, F(1, 1.626)50.94, P5.33; SDS-social impair-
ment scores, F(1, 1.639)50.20, P5.89; SDS-home
impairment scores, F(1, 1.637)50.09, P5.76; and the
Massachusetts General Hospital Hairpulling Severity
Scale scores, F(1, 1.582)50.29, P5.59 (Woods et al.,
unpublished data). Taken together, these data confirm
that while present at some level in most people with
hair pulling, criteria B and C are not predictive of
increased psychological symptoms, pulling severity, or
An additional consideration is that developmental
factors make it unlikely that the youngest individuals
who engage in chronic hair pulling have sufficient
awareness of the antecedents of their own behavior,
or ability to articulate that awareness, to provide
reliable data regarding criterion B and C. There is a
precedent for this difficulty in tic disorders, which have
also been hypothesized to lie on the obsessive–com-
pulsive spectrum, where children aged 9 and younger
were unable to report reliably on the presence of a
similar phenomenon, the premonitory urge, before
This issue has not been well explored in the clinical
literature. However, an analysis of the Trichotillomania
Impact Project-Child/Adolescent (TIP-CA) database
of 208 children and adolescents reporting chronic hair
pulling resulting in hair loss, found that 22 did not
endorse symptoms consistent with both criteria B and
C (B and C ABSENT). In addition, 50 endorsed
symptoms that were consistent with Criteria B or C,
but not both. Only 136 (65%) participants/parents
reported symptoms consistent with both B and C
(FULLTTM). A comparison of the B and C ABSENT
group to the FULL TTM group on a number of
different variables showed no significant differences in
standard severity measures (Trichotillomania Scale for
Children-Parent version), reported hair missing, age of
onset, Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children
(MASC)-Total Score, Child Depression Inventory
(CDI) total score, or psychosocial impairment (Woods
et al., unpublished data). These results suggest that for
children with TTM, criteria B and C do not add any
predictive validity in terms of impairment or comorbid
A counter-argument to dropping criteria B and C is
that these help convey the compulsive and driven
nature of hair pulling, and so contribute to accurate
diagnosis. Clearly, patients with TTM are not pulling
out hair for mere cosmetic reasons, and indeed, they
often have great difficulty controlling their urges to
pull out hair. Without describing these features, the
diagnostic criteria may give the impression that hair
pulling is simply a symptom rather than a syndrome
with typical features. Nevertheless, although criteria B
and C may help capture such features of TTM, as
noted above, they have important limitations. Although
the clinical phenomenology provided in the criteria will
be very succinct in the absence of criteria B and C, our
recommendation would be to provide a more compre-
hensive description of clinical features in the text.
Further research to determine whether words such as
‘‘urges’’ or alternative phrases, such as ‘‘seemingly
driven,’’ are reliable and useful additions to the criteria
set may well be useful.
Criteria D and E.
Criterion D is a standard
psychiatric and medical disorders exclusion criterion,
and criterion E is the standard clinical significance
criterion in DSM-IV. The phrasing of the exclusion of
medical disorders may be criticized for not reflecting
TTM, but it is not immediately clear how best to
improve this criterion to incorporate such knowledge
(see Leckman et al., this issue, for a more compre-
hensive discussion). To be consistent with other
disorders, we suggest a separate medical exclusion
criterion. The phrasing of the exclusion of psychiatric
614Stein et al.
Depression and Anxiety
disorders may be criticized for being overly broad and
insufficiently specific, and the term ‘‘not better
accounted for’’ may also require rethinking (Phillips
et al., this issue, for a more comprehensive discussion).
Patients with TTM may, for example, be misdiagnosed
with OC-spectrum conditions. We, therefore, suggest
rephrasing D as: ‘‘The hair-pulling is not restricted to
hair-pulling due to the symptoms of another mental
disorder (e.g. hair pulling due to preoccupations with
appearance in Body Dysmorphic Disorder).’’ We
considered adding a phrase that hair-pulling should
not be due to symmetry compulsions in OCD, but as
symmetrical hair-pulling is rarely a symptom of OCD,
decided not to.
The clinical significance criterion has also received
consider whether it can be better operationalized or
even omitted (see Leckman et al., Phillips et al., this
issue, for a more comprehensive discussion). It might
be possible, for example, to replace this categorical
threshold with dimensional assessments of distress
and impairment. However, this solution would need
to be tested across a range of conditions to determine
its validity and utility. Alternatively, it might be possible
to omit the clinical significance criterion and to use
measures of hair pulling itself (e.g. duration) to
determine the diagnostic threshold. However, there
are few data that indicate that any particular cut-offs on
measures of hair pulling would adequately differentiate
TTM from non-pathological hair pulling or otherwise
increase validity and utility. There are, for example,
patients who not only pull quantitatively few hairs
(e.g. only eyelash pulling), but who also have clear
distress and impairment, and who benefit from treat-
ment. Similarly, relying on a concept, such as ‘‘excessive
hair pulling,’’ would not seem to provide a more
reliable operationalization than the current clinical
criterion. We, therefore, do not suggest any changes in
We also reviewed the literature to determine whether
cross-cultural, gender, or developmental considerations
should lead to changes in the criteria for TTM. We
could find no data to support such changes.
In summary, there seems to be no empirical rationale
for the continued inclusion of the (current) criterion B
and C in DSM-Vas diagnostic criteria. It may be useful,
however, to retain recurrent prior tension and subse-
quent gratification as dimensions of hair pulling;
additional research on subtypes, specifiers, and dimen-
sions of TTM may be useful to elucidate fully its
psychobiological mechanisms and treatment predictors
(see also the following section). Similarly, the text would
need to convey the typical clinical features of TTM. In
addition, dropping the term ‘‘noticeable’’ in criterion A
seems a reasonable option, given that many patients with
TTM go to great lengths to disguise their alopecia.
Thus, we propose the following criteria for DSM-V:
A. Recurrent pulling out of one’s hair resulting in
and it is important to
B. Disturbance causes clinically significant distress or
impairment in social, occupational, or other important
areas of functioning.
C. Hair pulling is not due to the direct physiological
effects of a substance or a general medical condition
(e.g. a dermatological condition).
D. Hair pulling is not restricted to the symptoms of
another mental disorder (e.g. hair pulling due to
preoccupations with appearance in Body Dysmorphic
Clinicians have for some time differentiated between
‘‘focused’’ hair pulling (compulsive, reminiscent of the
compulsions of OCD) and ‘‘automatic’’ hair pulling
(automatic, with decreased awareness).The Mil-
waukee Inventory for Subtypes of Trichotillomania was
developed in order to rate these different types of hair
pulling.Focused pulling involves conscious pulling,
often in reaction to an unpleasant sensory, emotional or
cognitive state. Automatic pulling, in contrast, involves
habitual pulling that often occurs out of the patient’s
awareness. The existence of these two dimensions has
been confirmed in clinical samples of both adults
and childrenwith TTM.
From the TIP-A data, the correlation between the
focused and automatic scale scores was r(742)5.01, ns,
suggesting that the constructs are separable and
unrelated.Results also showed that scores on the
automatic scale correlated negatively with self-reported
awareness of pulling (r5?.46, Po.001), and were
weakly correlated with the DASS-21 stress (r5.15) and
anxiety (r5.12) subscales, but were uncorrelated with
the depression subscale (r5.05). In contrast, the
focused scale scores were moderately and significantly
correlated with the depression (r5.32, Po.001),
anxiety (r5.32, Po.001), and stress (r5.36, Po.001)
subscales of the DASS-21.
Results from the TIP-CA study showed similar
findings.A factor analysis of the MIST-C (a measure
designed to assess for focused and automatic pulling in
children) yielded both a focused and automatic factor,
which were unrelated r(135)?.15, P5.08. The auto-
matic pulling scale was negatively correlated with
awareness of pulling (r5?.61), but not with the CDI
(r5.12) or the MASC (r5.16) total scores. On the
contrary, the focused scale was correlated with the CDI
(r5.41) and MASC total score (r5.36).
To further explore the implications of focused and
automatic pulling in the adult TIP-A sample, median
splits were conducted on both the focused and
automatic factors. Groups were created to represent
high focused/high automatic, low focused/low auto-
matic, high focused/low automatic, and low focused/
high automatic. Results showed that regardless of
focused or automatic status, those who were classified
as ‘‘high’’ had more severe TTM as measured by the
615 Review: Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)
Depression and Anxiety
MGH. Those in the high focused/low automatic group
were less likely to report scalp pulling as the most
frequent pulling site, but were more likely to report
pulling from the eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic pulling
as the primary site in comparison with the low focused/
low automatic group. Those who were low in focused,
but high in automatic, reported more difficulties in
school than those who were low in both.
Although these results on the MIST-A and MIST-C
suggest that automatic and focused styles of pulling are
separable constructs that have differential correlates,
additional work is needed to delineate fully the
psychobiological underpinnings and treatment impli-
cations of focused versus automatic hair pulling. As an
interim step, we suggest describing these subtypes or
specifiers of hair pulling in the DSM-V text, so that
readers have a better appreciation of the symptomatol-
ogy of hair pulling.
The vast majority of TTM starts around the time of
puberty, but some patients present with very early onset
of hair pulling (infancy, toddlers). The relatively few
data on this younger group of patients were reviewed
for the DSM-IV Sourcebook, and it was noted that
although it is likely that they represent a somewhat
different form of hair pulling that does not persist over
time; in the absence of more systematic data, it is not
possible to assert with certainty a valid distinction
between infancy onset and later onset TTM.The
same conclusion would seem to hold true currently.
In addition, in typical clinical samples of TTM,
where onset is after puberty, there seems to be little
clinical utility in further differentiating earlier versus
later onset TTM.Using the TIP-A and TIP-CA
databases to conduct a cross-sectional exploration of
pulling across the developmental spectrum from ages
10 to 69, seven groups defined by particular ages
(i.e. 10–12, 13–15, 16–18, 19–28, 29–38, 39–48, 491)
were compared on various outcomes. Pulling severity,
as measured by self (for adults with TTM) or parent
(for children) of percentage of hair missing, did not
differ across the developmental groups. However,
psychosocial impairment, the number of pulling sites,
and reports of physical anxiety before pulling seem to
increase with age as the disorder progresses, plateauing
in early adulthood (19–28). In contrast, the number of
other repetitive behaviors people with TTM exhibit
both automatic and focused pulling occur at relatively
low levels during ages 10–12. However, both types
of pulling spiked in early and late adolescence
(aged 13–18), and began a steady descent to ‘‘below
average’’ levels in the latter age cohorts (Woods et al.,
Given that the psychobiological correlates and
treatment implications of early onset TTM remain
to be fully delineated, we do not feel that formally
subtyping TTM according to age is indicated at
the present time. Nevertheless, the text should
emphasize the typical age of onset of TTM, so that
clinicians are aware when particular cases differ from
Similarly, although a range of other subtypes or
specifiers of TTM have been proposed (e.g. TTM
varies by site, some patients have oral habits, such as
hair mouthing, hair biting, etc.), to date there is
insufficient data to indicate that formal subtyping or
specification is indicated.Once again, however, the
text should clarify some of these distinctions; for
example, patients who ingest hairs are at risk for
HAIR PULLING DISORDER
Although ‘‘trichotillomania’’ has become a widely
used diagnostic term, leading consumer advocates have
emphasized that it can be pejorative (Pearson, oral
communication). Although the term ‘‘manic’’ is used in
DSM-IV, the suffix ‘‘mania’’ is no longer used, and it
has connotations that may increase stigmatization of
hair pulling. Several alternative terms have been put
forward, including ‘‘trichotillia’’ (Pearson, oral com-
munication). However, this term may not be readily
understood by clinicians or patients, and is not used in
the existing literature. The term ‘‘hair pulling disorder’’
seems to offer a neutral description of the core
behavior and to avoid any theoretical assumptions
about its etiology; we, therefore, favor it. In order to
provide continuity in clinical and research settings, we
suggest that the term ‘‘trichotillomania’’ be retained in
WHERE SHOULD TRICHOTILLOMANIA BE
CLASSIFIED IN DSM-V?
Possibilities include (a) retaining the classification of
TTM as an impulse control disorder not classified
elsewhere, (b) moving TTM to a section of obsessive–
compulsive spectrum disorders, or (c) including TTM
as one of several BFRBDs. In addressing this issue,
it is relevant to examine the literature on classical
diagnostic validators, such as symptoms and course,
and on emerging external validators, such as neuro-
circuitry, and genetic and environmental risk factors
as well as on clinical utility.A comparison and
contrast of OCD and TTM on validators developed
during the DSM-V process is also presented in more
detail elsewhere (Phillips et al., this issue).
Trichotillomania as an impulse control dis-
First, there are phenomenological similarities
between the symptoms of TTM and other impulse
control disorders. Thus, many hair pullers endorse the
characteristic phenomenology of impulse control dis-
orders consisting of an increasing sense of tension
before impulsive behaviors or when attempting to resist
the impulsive behaviors, and by pleasure, gratification,
or relief when performing the behavior.Impulsive
616 Stein et al.
Depression and Anxiety
traits and symptoms may be more common in TTM
than in other psychiatric disorders, such as OCD.[30,31]
Second, there is some evidence of impulse dysregula-
tion in TTM. Comorbidity studies suggest that
lifetime rates of TTM may be elevated in some impulse
control disorders, such as compulsive sexual behavior
(6%)and kleptomania (10%).Neuropsychology
research indicates that in both OCD and TTM there is
impaired inhibition of motor responses (e.g. on the
stop-signal task).For TTM, the deficit was worse
than for OCD and the degree of the deficit correlated
significantly with symptom severity. In contrast, OCD
patients showed deficits in cognitive flexibility and
executive planning.Similarly, Bohne and co-workers
found deficits in motor inhibition in a subset of people
with hair pulling, but deficits in cognitive inhibition in
OCD.[36,37]Family history studies of impulse control
disorders have consistently found elevated rates of
substance use disorders in first-degree family mem-
bers.One of the few studies of TTM that included a
control group found that the first-degree relatives of
TTM subjects were significantly more likely to have
substance use disorders (21.6% alcohol and 14.7%
drug use disorders) than relatives of non-ill comparison
subjects (7.7% alcohol use disorders and 2.2% drug use
Third, there may be some clinical utility to
conceptualizing TTM as an impulse control disorder.
For example, limited data suggest that TTM may
respond to some interventions used for the treatment
of other impulse control disorders (e.g. naltrexone).
Unlike OCD, impulse control disorders have demon-
strated a mixed response to SSRIs. Similarly, although
early evidence indicated selective efficacy for a seroto-
nin reuptake inhibitor in TTM,a meta-analysis of
SSRI trials indicates that these agents are not more
effective than placebo.
At the same time, there is evidence against this
classification. First, as discussed above in more detail,
not all patients with TTM describe impulsive hair
pulling (i.e. criteria B and C), and these criteria are not
associated with increased psychological symptoms,
pulling severity, or functional impairment.
Second, not all studies are consistent with pheno-
menological and psychobiological overlap across TTM
and the impulse control disorders. Thus, research
on other impulse control disorders (e.g. pathological
gambling, intermittent explosive disorder) has found
little if any co-occurrence with TTM.[42,43]Conversely,
TTM patients show relatively little comorbidity with
most impulse control disorders. It is notable that
although the age of onset for TTM begins in early
puberty (11–13 years of age), the age of onset for
most impulse control disorders is generally late
adolescence or early adulthood (aged 18–25). It should
be emphasized, however, that few studies have com-
pared neuropsychology, familiality, or other psycho-
biological factors across TTM and impulse control
Third, the clinical utility of this classification can be
questioned. A first line psychotherapy intervention for
TTM is habit reversal,a set of techniques which are
not used in the treatment of other impulse control
disorders. Similarly, there may be specific pharma-
cotherapy interventions for TTM, such as N-acetyl-
cysteine, which have not been widely studied in the
impulse control disorders.
Trichotillomania as an OCD spectrum dis-
There are some similarities between the
phenomenology of hair pulling and those of OCD
compulsions, insofar as the behavior is in response to
urges and can be anxiety relieving, is driven and
repetitive, and is sometimes symmetrical in nat-
ure.[45,46]On the other hand, there are no preceding
obsessions (as currently defined) in TTM, and in
contrast to OCD, there is often a sense of pleasure at
the time of the repetitive behavior. Differences between
TTM and OCD also occur in gender distribution
(TTM is predominantly seen in females, whereas OCD
is equally distributed in gender) and age of onset
(TTM begins usually in early adolescence, whereas
OCD starts in childhood up until early adulthood with
a gender disparity in onset). In some work, occurrence
rates of TTM are not higher in OCD than in other
anxiety disorders.Conversely, although there is
comorbidity of OCD in TTM probands, this is not
as high as expected were the two disorders closely
related.Furthermore, comorbidity patterns in OCD
and TTM differ somewhat.[49,50]
There are some similarities in the underlying
psychobiology of TTM and OCD. Swedo and
colleague’s initial work suggested that clomipramine
was more effective than desipramine for both OCD and
TTM.There is, arguably, some evidence from brain
imaging studies for involvement of frontostriatal
circuitry in both disorders.[51–53]Family data indicate
that ‘‘grooming disorders’’ (including TTM and skin
picking) occur more frequently than expected in OCD
probands and relatives.There are rare reports of
striatal damage leading to hair pulling, redolent of the
literature on OCD. Patients with rare gene variants
may present with TTM, OCD, or Tourette’s disor-
On the other hand, in contrast to OCD, TTM may
often not respond to SSRIs, or response may fail to be
maintained.[41,58]There are only a few brain imaging
studies of TTM and findings have not always
consistently implicated fronto-striatal circuits,[59,60]or
have pointed to other regions, such as the cerebel-
Although neuropsychological studies have
suggested similar impairments in OCD and TTM,
findings have predominantly emphasized significant
differences in the pattern of deficits.[35,62–65]Neuro-
biological studies suggest that individuals with TTM,
unlike those with OCD, do not demonstrate either a
blunted prolactin response to meta-chlorophenylpiper-
azine (a serotonergic agonist) or cerebral spinal fluid
abnormalities in serotonin metabolites.[66,67]Family
617 Review: Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)
Depression and Anxiety
studies indicate some relationship between OCD and
TTM, but not a particularly strong one.[68,69]Genetic
studies of TTM are scarce, but to date there is little
evidence that common gene variants show significant
overlap in OCD and TTM.
There may be some clinical utility in conceptualizing
TTM as part of the OCD spectrum, insofar as it
reminds clinicians to inquire about comorbidity of
these disorders, and insofar as treatment approaches to
TTM have been influenced by work on OCD.On
the other hand, perhaps the most common comorbidity
in TTM is with other body-focused repetitive beha-
viors.[48,72]Furthermore, the best evidence for TTM
management currently lies in habit reversal,a series
of techniques which overlap only partially with those
used in the treatment of OCD.
Trichotillomania as a body-focused repetitive
Several authors have empha-
sized that hair pulling, skin picking, and similar
body-focused repetitive behaviors have similar phe-
nomenology,[73,74]and should be conceptualized as
BFRBDs. Such symptoms may be ritualistic, but there
are no preceding obsessions. Similar cues may trigger
these symptoms and it has been suggested that they
play a role in arousal modulation.Age of onset is
similar for chronic hair pulling and skin picking,
although childhood onset skin picking seems to be
female predominant, whereas childhood onset TTM is
more gender equal and childhood onset OCD slightly
more male predominant.
There is a high degree of comorbidity between hair
pulling, skin picking, and other body-focused repetitive
behaviors, with an increased number of ‘‘habits’’
(e.g. nail biting, acne, scab and nose picking, thumb
sucking, knuckle cracking) in patients with hair
Severity scores on the Massachusetts
General Hospital Hairpulling Scale and Skin Picking
Scale (measures of hair pulling and skin picking,
respectively) are highly correlated in clinical samples.
Similarly, in patients with skin picking, there is high
comorbidity of TTM and OCD, whereas other
impulse control disorders occur infrequently.
There is relatively little work on the underlying
neurobiology of BFRBDs in humans, although there is
a rich animal literature on the neurobiology of
stereotypic and grooming behavior,[76–78]and there is
some evidence for similarities between animal and
human data (e.g. selective responsiveness to serotonin
reuptake inhibitors).[79–81]Elevated rates of skin pick-
ing have been reported in OCD patients and their first-
From the perspective of clinical utility, it seems
useful to ask patients with one body-focused repetitive
behavior about a whole range of these symptoms. In
addition, habit reversal seems useful not only for hair
pulling, but also for a number of other stereotypic
behaviors.At the same time, there may be differ-
ences in the response of hair pulling and skin picking to
opioid antagonists.Further work is clearly needed to
assess various body-focused repetitive behaviors on a
range of validators as well as treatment outcomes.
Overall, our recommendation is that TTM be
classified as one of the body-focused repetitive
behavioral disorders. These conditions have early onset
and should the category of Disorders Usually First
Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or Adolescence be
retained, they arguably belong there.Nevertheless,
many patients often only present in adulthood, and it is
also possible to argue that these conditions fall into the
motoric subtype of obsessive–compulsive spectrum
disorders (Phillips et al., this issue). In a separate
review, we also discuss the question of whether OCD is
related to the anxiety disorders (Stein et al., this issue).
Although OCD and the obsessive–compulsive spec-
trum disorders are not necessarily closely related to the
anxiety disorders, if there are to be a limited number of
diagnostic categories, then that review indicates that it
is best to retain OCD and obsessive–compulsive
spectrum disorders, including BFRBDs, within a
category of anxiety, OCD, and obsessive–compulsive
SKIN PICKING DISORDER
A growing literature has documented the prevalence
of skin picking in clinical and community sam-
ples,[9–12,84–86]with prevalence estimates ranging from
2 to 5.4%.This work has also documented a high
degree of psychiatric comorbidity (particularly with
mood and anxiety disorders) and morbidity (with
substantial associated distress and impairment, includ-
ing occupational and marital difficulties). People with
skin picking often spend significant amounts of time on
their behavior, sometimes several hours each day.
Skin picking often results in significant tissue damage
and scarring, requiring frequent antibiotic treatment
for infection, and on occasion requiring surgery.
Patients with skin picking often present with a typical
set of clinical features and, indeed, these often overlap
with those seen in hair pulling. Although skin picking
may be present at any age, it most often has its onset
during adolescence, and frequently begins with a derma-
tological condition, such as acne.The most com-
monly picked sites are the head and face, and although
most patients pick with their fingernails, a substantial
minority use tweezers or other objects,triggers to
picking including feeling irregularities in the skin, or
negative affects.People with skin picking often feel
embarrassed by and ashamed of their behavior, and this
frequently contributes to delay in treatment seeking.
Skin picking may also be seen in subjects with other
psychiatric disorders (e.g. body dysmorphic disor-
der)[88,89]and in patients with medical conditions
(e.g. dermatological disorders).
Various proposals have been put forward for a name
for this phenomenon (neurotic excoriation, compulsive
picking, pathological skin
nia),and diagnostic criteria have also been proposed
618 Stein et al.
Depression and Anxiety
(e.g. following the format of an impulse control
disorder)[11,87](Tables 3 and 4). In addition to a
growing literature on prevalence, morbidity, and
comorbidity, there is a small literature on underlying
psychobiology and an increasing number of controlled
An immediate criticism of the proposal to include
clinical skin picking in DSM-V is that it is a symptom
(or a habit) rather than a syndrome. This same criticism
has been leveled at TTM,and a central part of the
discussion of TTM in the DSM-IV Sourcebook
focused on arguing that this condition was not merely
a component of other disorders.As in TTM, skin
picking frequently occurs as the primary disorder and
has well-described clinical features (including course),
with accumulating data on diagnostic validators.
Furthermore, the identification of TTM as a discrete
disorder (excluding pulling secondary to other condi-
tions) allowed valuable studies of its phenomenology,
psychobiology and treatment, and improved clinical
diagnosis and intervention.
Another criticism would be that if both hair pulling
and skin picking are identified as disorders, this ‘‘opens
the door’’ of the classification system to a whole range
of other ‘‘habits,’’ including nail biting, lip chewing,
and nose picking. Currently, these might be diagnosed
in DSM-IV as stereotypic movement disorder or in
ICD-10 as other specified behavioral and emotional
disorders (which already list nail biting and nose
picking). However, there is significantly more data on
clinical skin picking, and there is no a priori reason for
excluding ‘‘habits’’—which may in fact be associated
with distress and impairment, with underlying psycho-
biological disturbances, and which may usefully be
assessed and treated—from our nosology.
To examine whether skin picking should be included
as a diagnosis in DSM-V, separate from other
disorders, we address several considerations. First, we
draw, in part, on the DSM-IV definition of a mental
disorder while also considering ongoing discussion in
the literature about what constitutes a mental dis-
order.[93,94]We then address several additional con-
siderations for adding a disorder to the nomenclature,
including diagnostic validity and clinical utility:
The condition is a behavioral or psychological syndrome or
pattern that occurs in an individual: As above, skin
picking has long been described in the literature that it
is a prevalent syndrome, and diagnostic criteria have
The consequences of which are clinically significant distress
or disability: As above, skin picking leads to clinically
significant distress or disability, and in some cases can
have important medical sequelae.
The proposed syndrome is not merely an expectable
response to common stressors or losses or a culturally
sanctioned response to a particular event: Although skin
picking may be exacerbated by particular negative
effects,there is no evidence that it is an expectable
response or that it is culturally sanctioned.
The proposed syndrome reflects an underlying psychobio-
logical dysfunction: Much work is needed on the
psychobiology of skin picking. Nevertheless, some data
is available on the neurobiology of skin picking,[9,82,96]
and there is also a growing literature on the neurobiol-
ogy of itching and scratching.[97–99]Evidence that
pharmacotherapy can be effective is consistent with
The syndrome is not primarily a result of social deviance or
conflicts with society: There is no evidence that skin
picking simply reflects social deviance or conflicts with
TABLE 3. Diagnostic criteria for psychogenic
A.Maladaptive skin excoriation (e.g. scratching, picking, gouging,
lancing, digging, rubbing or squeezing skin) or maladaptive
preoccupation with skin excoriation as indicated by at least one
of the following
Preoccupation with skin excoriation and/or recurrent impulses
to excoriate the skin that is/are experienced as irresistible,
intrusive, and/or senseless
Recurrent excoriation of the skin resulting in noticeable skin
The preoccupation, impulses, or behaviors associated with skin
excoriation cause marked distress, are time-consuming,
significantly interfere with social or occupational activities, or
result in medical problems (e.g. infections)
The disturbance is not better accounted for by another mental
disorder and is not due to a general mental condition
Skin excoriation is performed to avoid increased anxiety or to prevent
a dreaded event or situation and/or is elicited by an obsession (e.g.
obsession about contamination of the skin)
It is performed in full awareness
It is associated with some resistance to performing the behavior
There is some insight into its senselessness or harmfulness
Skin excoriation is associated with arousal, pleasure, or reduction of
It is performed at times with minimal awareness (e.g. automatically)
It is associated with little resistance to performing the behavior
There is little insight into its senselessness or harmfulness
Skin excoriation has both compulsive and impulsive features
TABLE 4. Diagnostic criteria for pathological skin
Recurrent skin picking resulting in noticeable skin damage
Preoccupation with impulses or urges to pick skin, which is
experienced as intrusive
Feelings of tension, anxiety, or agitation immediately before
Feelings of pleasure, relief, or satisfaction while picking
The picking is not accounted for by another medical or mental
disorder (e.g. cocaine or amphetamine use disorders, scabies)
The individual suffers significant distress or social or
619 Review: Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)
Depression and Anxiety
The syndrome has diagnostic validity on the basis of
various diagnostic validators (e.g. prognostic significance,
psychobiological disruption, response to treatment): Addi-
tional work is needed on many aspects of skin picking.
Nevertheless, there is some data to support the
diagnostic validity of skin picking, including data on
course and comorbidity and on response to treatment.
The syndrome has clinical utility (e.g. contributes to better
conceptualization of diagnoses, or to better assessment and
treatment): Currently, skin picking likely falls within the
category of impulse control disorders not otherwise
specified. Including skin picking as a separate diagnosis
would create greater awareness of this condition,
encourage appropriate assessment and treatment, and
give impetus to research.
The advantages of including skin picking as a
disorder (improved recognition and treatment of a
large group of patients with a clinically significant
condition) seem to outweigh any disadvantages (inclu-
sion of an entity for which data on diagnostic validity
are relatively few). Several additional considerations
may arise when proposing a new disorder for the
nomenclature. These include: (1) Is there a need for the
disorder; for example, is the syndrome sufficiently
common in clinical or population samples that it merits
an independent category as opposed to being one
example in an NOS category? (2) What is the
relationship of the proposed disorder with other
DSM-V diagnoses; for example, is the disorder
sufficiently distinct from other diagnoses? (3) Are there
proposed diagnostic criteria with clinical face validity,
reliability, and adequate sensitivity and specificity for
the proposed construct? and (4) Can the criteria be
easily implemented in a typical clinical interview and
reliably operationalized/assessed for research purposes.
In each of these cases, there is some data to support the
entry of skin picking into the nomenclature, although
further work on the reliability of the proposed criteria
is needed. Taken together, we recommend that skin
picking be added to DSM-V or to the DSM-V
Appendix of Criteria Sets Provided for Further Study.
Recommendations for the optimal diagnostic criteria
for pathological skin picking should take into account
the literature, noted earlier, indicating similarity in
phenomenology of clinically significant hair pulling
and skin picking. This includes similarity in symptom
form, antecedent cues, and comorbidity. Furthermore,
there is evidence from factor analytic studies that both
TTM and skin picking have similar forms (i.e. similar
behavioral dimensions).Indeed, we recommend
that the diagnostic criteria parallel those used for
TTM. As in the case of TTM, further research to
determine whether alternative phrases, such as ‘‘see-
mingly driven,’’ are reliable and useful additions to the
criteria set may be useful.
As in TTM, we recommend that clinical threshold is
decided primarily using the clinical significance criter-
ion, rather than on the basis of the extent of skin
pickingordermatological sequelae. Alternative
approaches, such as specifying the time spent on skin
picking or the extent of observable skin damage, seem
problematic insofar as they entail arbitrary or difficult
to operationalize cut-offs, and insofar as some patients
may have clinically significant skin picking, but may
perform most of their skin picking in a short amount of
time each day or may pick their skin in a way that
damage is limited to a small or hidden part of the body.
Thus, we propose the following criteria for DSM-V:
A. Recurrent skin picking resulting in skin lesions.
B. Disturbance causes clinically significant distress or
impairment in social, occupational, or other important
areas of functioning.
C. Skin picking is not due to the direct physiological
effects of a substance (e.g. during Amphetamine
Intoxication) or a general medical condition (e.g. a
D. Skin picking is not restricted to the symptoms of
another mental disorder (e.g. skin picking due to fixed
beliefs about skin infestation in Delusional Disorder,
preoccupations with appearance in Body Dysmorphic
The accompanying text could provide additional
information about typical features, about the specific
substances and general medical conditions that have
been associated with skin picking, and the nature of
skin picking in conditions such as delusional and body
Recommendations for the optimal categorization
and naming of clinically significant skin picking should
take data on its comorbidity and psychobiology into
account.It is notable that occurrence rates for both
TTM and OCD in clinical skin picking samples are
higher than that reported for the normal popula-
tion.[10,87]A significantly higher rate of OCD was
reported in a skin picking cohort than in a control com-
parison sample,suggesting that these disorders
may be related. In addition, elevated rates of skin
picking were reported in OCD patients and their first-
degree relatives.On the other hand, rates of
occurrence of clinical skin picking may not significantly
differ between OCD and other anxiety disorders.
TTM has, however, been reported to be the most
common current and lifetime comorbid disorder in
clinically significant skin picking (although other
impulse control disorders occur infrequently). Indeed,
there is only limited data to suggest that skin picking
should be understood as an impulse control dis-
We recommend that clinically significant skin pick-
ing be termed ‘‘skin picking disorder,’’ as this is a
readily understandable term, is theoretically neutral
about etiology (unlike ‘‘neurotic excoriation’’
‘‘compulsive picking’’), and parallels the recommended
name of ‘‘hair pulling disorder.’’ Although the term
‘‘dermatillia’’ is thought preferable to ‘‘pathological
skin picking’’ by some patient advocates (Pearson, oral
communication), the former name has the same
disadvantages as ‘‘trichotillia’’ (see above). Should skin
620Stein et al.
Depression and Anxiety
picking disorder be accepted into the main body of the
nosology, we would recommend classifying it adjacent
to hair pulling disorder (TTM).
STEREOTYPIC MOVEMENT DISORDER
Normally, developing infants exhibit a broad range of
repetitive stereotyped behavioral movements, including
toe sucking and body rocking, following a predictable
studies indicates that onset of stereotyped behaviors
seems to be delayed in individuals with developmental
disabilities, such as intellectual disability, or pervasive
developmental disorders, such as autism, but that the
sequencing may be similar to that seen in normal
populations.In these latter populations, stereo-
typed behaviors, including self-injurious behaviors, are
prevalent and impairing.[14,15,106,107]Such behaviors
are also found in populations with normal intelli-
The term ‘‘stereotypies’’ has been applied to a broad
range of symptoms, including specific movements (e.g.
hand flapping) as well as to a heterogenous range of
self-directed repetitive behaviors, activities, and inter-
ests (e.g. pacing, picking skin, playing in a fixed
pattern).Several studies, in a range of countries,
have contributed to the classification of stereotyped
behaviors using methods, such as factor
sis.[109–112]In developmental disabilities, for example,
sensorimotor (or lower-order) stereotyped behaviors
may be associated with more global developmental
problems, whereas cognitive rigidity (higher-order)
symptoms may be associated with ruminations in
subjects with pervasive developmental disorders.
Indeed, a range of work suggests that stereotypies,
including self-injurious behaviors, have a distinctive
pattern in autism.[113,114]
Another approach is to classify stereotypies into
those that are primary and those that are secondary to
other disorders.Primary stereotypies include com-
mon stereotypies (e.g. thumb sucking, nail biting, hair
twirling, body rocking, self-biting, and head banging),
head nodding stereotypies, and complex hand and arm
movement stereotypies. Common stereotypies are
relatively common in childhood, and most resolve
during development. Secondary stereotypies are those
seen in developmental disabilities, including pervasive
developmental and psychiatric disorders. Although hair
twirling is conceptualized as a common stereotypy, hair
pulling often has a later onset and is due to a
psychiatric syndrome (TTM), so would be classified
as a secondary stereotypy.
There is an accumulating literature on the neuro-
biology of primary stereotypies, including both animal
and clinical studies.[13,78,115–117]
growing literature on the treatment of both primary
stereotypies[108,118,119]and stereotypies in patients with
developmental disorders.[120–122]A parallel, sometimes
A small database of
There is also a
overlapping, literature on repetitive self-injurious
behavior has also developed.[123–126]
Relatively little research has specifically focused on
attempting to integrate the nosology of stereotypies
with its neurobiology. Thus, the extent to which
different kinds of stereotypic behavior (e.g. lower order
versus higher order), or to which primary and
secondary stereotypies, have convergent or divergent
neurobiology remains to be fully clarified. In patients
with primary motor stereotypies, however, psychiatric
comorbidity includes attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (30%), tics (18%), and obsessive–compulsive
behaviors/disorder (10%).Similarly, a small litera-
ture indicates that primary motor stereotypies may
involve neurocircuitry and neurotransmitters that over-
lap with those of putative obsessive–compulsive spec-
trum disorders,[128,129]and that these symptoms may
respond to habit reversal.
Similarly, patients with developmental disorders and
stereotypic behaviors have been documented to com-
monly have comorbidity
symptoms,[130–132]although such symptoms may not
be typical of OCD.The literature on the neuro-
biology of stereotypic behaviors in developmental
disabilities suggests some overlap with OCD[134,135]
or some value in using comorbid obsessive–compulsive
symptoms, as a specifier when studying these dis-
orders.[136–138]Nevertheless, not all data confirm such
overlap,[139–141]and the literature also points to a
number of unique features of stereotypic symptoms in
developmental disorders, including pathology in the
peripheral neuronal system.[142,143]As reviewed above,
the neurobiology of TTM and skin picking is similarly
inconsistent as regards its relationship to OCD.
Regarding the diagnostic criteria for SMD, DSM-
IV’s criterion A refers to ‘‘repetitive, seemingly driven,
and nonfunctional motor behavior.’’ The term ‘‘see-
mingly driven’’ conveys an important feature of the
repetitive body-focused behavioral disorders. Although
arguably difficult to operationalize, there is no evidence
that any other phrase is superior. The term ‘‘nonfunc-
tional’’ is arguably problematic insofar as these
behaviors may have a self-regulatory function. We,
therefore, recommend replacing it with the phrase
‘‘apparently purposeless’’ and clarifying relevant issues
in the text (e.g. patients may state that they perform a
particular stereotypy in order to reduce tension). The
criterion could arguably be improved by specifying the
nature of primary stereotypies in more detail; these
tend to be rhythmic, coordinated movements that are
patterned and predictable (in form, amplitude, and
location). Such descriptors may be particularly useful in
describing head nodding stereotypies and complex
hand and arm movement stereotypies.However,
such terms are not often used in describing primary
common stereotypies (such as self-biting). We recom-
mend additional research, using a heterogeneous range
of patients, to clarify the optimal definition of
stereotypies. To reduce diagnostic confusion, however,
621 Review: Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder)
Depression and Anxiety
we suggest altering the examples of stereotypies to
include those that are commonly described in the
literature (hand shaking or waving, body rocking, head
Criterion B of SMD is somewhat inconsistent with
other clinical significance criteria in DSM-IV, insofar as
it refers to interference with normal activity or to ‘‘self-
inflicted bodily injury that requires medical treatment,’’
rather than to impairment in social, occupational, or
other important areas of functioning. The reference to
normal activity criterion may be particular relevant to
patients with intellectual disability but, as noted above,
SMD is also seen in adults with normal intelligence. A
threshold of requiring medical treatment seems un-
necessarily high for clinically significant self-injury. We,
therefore, suggest replacing this criterion with the
standard clinical significance criterion.
Criterion C of SMD also addresses a clinical
threshold issue, indicating that when mental retarda-
tion is present, the stereotypic or self-injurious
symptoms need to be sufficiently severe to become a
focus of treatment. However, this is an unusual
approach to determining clinical threshold and is
arguably tautological. Another problem with this
criterion is that many individuals lack access to health
care. We, therefore, suggest removing this criterion.
Similarly, we recommend dropping this phrase from
the specifier, ‘‘with self-injurious behavior.’’
Criteria D and E are based on the standard
hierarchical exclusion criteria in DSM-IV. If skin
picking disorder is included in DSM-V, reference
would need to be made to it. One option may be to
omit reference to pervasive development disorder
(PDD), on the assumption that SMD in PDD deserves
to be diagnosed and treated. On the other hand, there
is a long-standing distinction between primary motor
stereotypies and those that are secondary to other
neuropsychiatric disorders, reflecting possible differ-
ences in phenomenology, psychobiology, and treatment
approaches.In addition, it seems problematic to
diagnose SMD that is a symptom of PPD as a separate
disorder. We, therefore, recommend a conservative
approach that retains this diagnostic distinction. It may
also be relevant to refer to the distinction between the
stereotyped self-injurious behaviors of SMD and more
impulsive self-injurious behaviors seen in disorders,
such as borderline personality disorder.
Criterion F again addresses the clinical threshold
question, stating that the behavior must have been
present for 4 weeks. To our knowledge, there are no data
that support this particular cut-off. SMD symptoms are
chronic in nature, criterion A indicates that they are
‘‘repetitive,’’ and the standard clinical significance
criterion would also provide appropriate thresholding.
In summary, we suggest simplifying the diagnostic
criteria for SMD as follows:
A. Repetitive, seemingly driven, and apparently
purposeless motor behavior (e.g. hand shaking or
waving, body rocking, head banging, self-biting).
B. The disturbance causes clinically significant
distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other
important areas of functioning.
C. The motor behavior is not due to the direct
physiological effects of a substance or a general medical
D. The motor behavior is not restricted to the
symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g. compul-
sions in Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder, tics in Tic
Disorder, stereotypies in Pervasive Developmental
Disorder, hair pulling in Hair Pulling Disorder
(TTM), skin picking in Skin Picking Disorder).
Specifier: Self-Injurious Behavior: If the behavior
results in bodily damage (or that would result in bodily
damage if protective measures were not used).
Relatively little research has specifically addressed
the optimal categorization of SMD. If the section on
disorders of infancy, childhood, and adolescent is
retained, or reconfigured as a neurodevelopmental
grouping, there may be no reason to move this
condition elsewhere. However, if this section is not
included in DSM-V, and if a section on obsessive–
compulsive spectrum disorders is included, there is an
argument for including SMD in this section. On the
one hand, there are important differences in the
phenomenology and, likely, psychobiology of OCD
and SMD. On the other hand, there is also evidence of
elevated comorbidity,and partial overlap between
SMD and OCSDs in phenomenology and psychobiol-
ogy as well as in treatment approach.In view of
considerations of clinical utility, such as encouraging
optimal diagnosis of stereotypical and other repetitive
symptoms, and optimizing their treatment, if the
section on disorders of infancy, childhood, and
adolescence is not retained,
neurodevelopmental grouping, we, therefore, recom-
mend including SMD together with the OCSDs.
or reconfigured as a
1. TTM fits optimally into a category of BFRBDs.
A finely divided nosology would emphasize impor-
tant differences between OCD, various OCD-
However, in a system comprised of relatively few
major categories of disorders, then BFRBDs would
fit best within a category of anxiety, OCD, and
obsessive–compulsive spectrum disorders.
2. Available evidence does not support continuing to
include (current) criterion B and C in DSM-V as
diagnostic criteria for TTM. It may be useful,
however, to retain recurrent prior tension and
subsequent gratification as dimensions of hair pulling.
3. We recommend that forms of hair pulling be
described in the text of DSM-V. Hair pulling has
been described in infants, but there is currently
insufficient data to specify an early-onset form of
622 Stein et al.
Depression and Anxiety
4. The term ‘‘trichotillomania’’ deserves renewed
thought, given that the phrase ‘‘mania’’ is potentially
misleading in the context of this disorder. We
suggest using the designation ‘‘hair pulling disorder
5. We recommend that ‘‘skin picking disorder’’ be
included in DSM-V or in the DSM-V Appendix of
Criteria Sets Provided for Further Study. We have
suggested a criteria set that is in line with that used
for ‘‘hair pulling disorder (trichotillomania).’’
6. We recommend clarifying and simplifying the
criteria of stereotypic movement disorder, to bring
them in line with those for hair pulling disorder and
skin picking disorder.
Michelle Craske, Eric Hollander, Blair Simpson, and
Susan Swedo for their comments on a draft of this
article. We also thank members of the Scientific
Advisor Board of the Trichotillomania Learning
Center and other TTM experts who responded to a
survey about the nosology of hair pulling and other
Conflict of Interest: Dr. Stein has received research
grants and/or consultancy honoraria from Astrazeneca,
Johnson & Johnson, Lundbeck, Orion, Pfizer, Phar-
macia, Roche, Servier, Solvay, Sumitomo, Takeda,
Tikvah, and Wyeth.
We thank Drs. Bryan King,
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