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Sensory Over-Responsivity in Hair-Pulling Disorder

Psychiatry Res; ePub 2017 Nov 16; Falkenstein, et al

Sensory over-responsivity (SOR) may be related to maladaptive emotion regulation processes in trichotillomania (TTM), commonly known as hair-pulling disorder, a recent study found. Adults endorsing DSM-5 TTM criteria (n=609) and a non-affected comparison sample (n=268) completed a self-report survey. Researchers found:

  • The majority of the TTM group endorsed SOR symptoms; three-quarters endorsed at least mild tactile and auditory SOR.
  • About 15% endorsed SOR symptoms in the severe to extreme range.
  • TTM participants had significantly higher mean scores in both auditory (t [652.89] = −6.51) and tactile (t [655.24] = −8.38) modalities than comparison participants, with medium effect sizes.
  • Greater levels of SOR were related to greater levels of perfectionism and by-proxy pulling urges.
  • SOR was significantly and positively correlated with functional impairment when controlling for TTM severity.


Falkenstein MJ, Conelea CA, Garner LE, Haaga DAF. Sensory over-responsivity in trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder). [Published online ahead of print November 16, 2017]. Psychiatry Res. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2017.11.034.

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