Neurobiology of subtypes of trichotillomania and skin picking disorder

Jon E. Grant, Richard A.I. Bethlehem, Samuel R. Chamberlain, Tara S. Peris, Emily J. Ricketts, Joseph O'Neill, Darin D. Dougherty, Dan Stein, Christine Lochner, Douglas W. Woods, John Piacentini, Nancy J. Keuthen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background Trichotillomania (TTM) and skin picking disorder (SPD) are common and often debilitating mental health conditions, grouped under the umbrella term of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). Recent clinical subtyping found that there were three distinct subtypes of TTM and two of SPD. Whether these clinical subtypes map on to any unique neurobiological underpinnings, however, remains unknown. Methods Two hundred and fifty one adults [193 with a BFRB (85.5% [n = 165] female) and 58 healthy controls (77.6% [n = 45] female)] were recruited from the community for a multicenter between-group comparison using structural neuroimaging. Differences in whole brain structure were compared across the subtypes of BFRBs, controlling for age, sex, scanning site, and intracranial volume. Results When the subtypes of TTM were compared, low awareness hair pullers demonstrated increased cortical volume in the lateral occipital lobe relative to controls and sensory sensitive pullers. In addition, impulsive/perfectionist hair pullers showed relative decreased volume near the lingual gyrus of the inferior occipital-parietal lobe compared with controls. Conclusions These data indicate that the anatomical substrates of particular forms of BFRBs are dissociable, which may have implications for understanding clinical presentations and treatment response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-103
Number of pages6
JournalCNS Spectrums
Issue number1
StatePublished - 3 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Trichotillomania
  • imaging
  • neurobiology
  • skin picking disorder
  • subtypes


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