Sensory over-responsivity in trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder)

Martha J. Falkenstein, Christine A. Conelea, Lauryn E. Garner, David A.F. Haaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective This study was an initial investigation of sensory-over responsivity (SOR) to external sensations among individuals with trichotillomania (TTM). Methods Adults endorsing DSM-5 TTM criteria (N = 609) and a non-affected comparison sample (N = 268) completed a self-report survey. Results 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, p <.001, d =.45) and tactile (t (655.24) = −8.38, p <.001, d =.58) 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. Conclusion This study expands prior work in obsessive-compulsive related disorders by contributing the first data about associations between TTM and over-responsivity to external sensations. Findings collectively suggest SOR may be related to maladaptive emotion regulation processes in TTM. A novel measure of SOR was developed and administered in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-218
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by the College of Arts and Sciences at American University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Hair pulling disorder
  • Sensory intolerance
  • Sensory over-responsivity
  • Trichotillomania


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