Compulsive Touching & Hair Loss – How to Combat It

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

Read on to understand what causes compulsive touching and scalp picking and ways you can help reduce it

What is Compulsive Hair Touching?

Compulsive touching is one of the lesser-known groups of symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Compulsive hair touching may be a ritual to help reduce stress or anxiety usually brought about by obsessive thoughts. OCD is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over (National Institute of Mental Health). For others, these rituals are driven by distinct urges, described often as tension or pressure throughout their entire body that they cannot control or alleviate.

When we think of OCD, we often think of handwashing, flicking light switches on and off, and obsessive cleaning rituals, as this is most commonly how the media has portrayed OCD. For sufferers, it can make its presence known in many different ways. One of the lesser-known groups of symptoms includes ritualized hair touching, twirling, pulling and picking at split ends.


How can compulsive touching lead to hair loss?

Excessive hair touching can do your ends some harm. When we say excessive hair touching, we’re not about the harmless hair feeling such as swishing, lightly stroking, and flicking your hair. However, twirling or rubbing hair especially with dirty or oily hands can transfer grime onto your hair and scalp. Twirling tangles hair which is usually difficult to detangle. Twisting hair roughly worsens the situation because they can snap and pull out.

Another way hair touching damages your hair is through picking at split ends and physically pulling strands of hair out. This can cause permanent damage to the follicle, and the trauma can cause it to stop producing new hair. Some sufferers have reported an obsession with counting strands of hair that comes out when they brush or wash their hair. Others experienced an urge to count the number of hairs in a certain patch where they may be experiencing hair loss.


So what can you do if you feel that compulsive touching, picking and pulling at your hair is taking over? There are a number of incredible support groups available, and the positive news is that once OCD is diagnosed by a professional, most patients respond well to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), some of the most effective include Habit Reversal and Stimulus Control.

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  1. Get professional help

Getting diagnosed can help you access the therapy needed to manage OCD generally.

You might also want to tell people you trust about your condition as they can provide the support you need to surmount your compulsive touching. Confide in a friend or family member you can trust, and speak to a licenced therapist or councillor who will be able to help you identify the cause of your OCD and recommend suitable therapies and treatments.

  1. Stay alert and in the know

Knowing the cause of a problem is usually the half-way to solving it. You need to become aware of the condition and track it. You can use a diary to note every day you find yourself touching your hair as well as possible triggers that promoted the compulsion to play with your hair. By doing this, it becomes easy to design a plan with a therapist that will help you reduce and eventually stop touching your hair excessively. Remember to reward your progress when you don’t touch your hair for long periods. Remember to start with little goals and challenges and increase the momentum as you see visible changes

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  1. Silk headcovers will help

Completely covering your head is an excellent reminder that you shouldn’t be playing with your hair. Each time you touch the silk scarf, head bonnet or any other head cover, it will remind you that you are trying to make a positive change. More so, think about the benefits that silk head covers give. For example, they promote hair growth by conserving hair moisture and protect your scalp and strands from friction from your pillowcase, which will help with regrowth. Bearing this in mind can further convince not to take the head cover off your hair for times when the urge seems insurmountable. If you find you subconsciously pull your hair out in your sleep, wearing a silk headwrap will certainly help with this.

  1. Find healthy distractions

Finding ways to keep both hands busy also helps. Distractions such as playing instruments, writing, knitting and any other activity or hobby you find interesting, can help take your mind off your hair and onto even more productive things. All treatments can take time and patience, but the good news is that your hair can grow back. If it’s been going on for a long time, less will do so, or your hair may grow back a different texture – but you will see an improvement.



Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.