Twirling hair around the fingers may be something a person does out of habit. However, the behavior may also have links with stress and mental health disorders. Repeated hair twirling can cause adverse effects.

Depending on how often someone twirls their hair and how tight it becomes wrapped around the fingers, hair twirling may damage the hair or cause other problems.

This article discusses hair twirling and why someone may do it. It looks at anxiety disorders relating to hair twirling and the possible side effects of the behavior. Additionally, it explains how a person can stop hair twirling, when to contact a doctor, and more.

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People may occasionally twirl their hair without even realizing they are doing it. However, if hair twirling becomes repetitive or develops into pulling out hair, it may indicate that a person has an anxiety disorder.

Hair twirling may occur alongside hair pulling. Doctors call hair-pulling disorder trichotillomania (TTM), and experts classify it under the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

TTM involves combing the hands through the hair, sometimes feeling for coarse hairs, and then pulling out the hair with hands or tweezers. Some people with TTM inspect the hair or eat it. Their behaviors may be automatic, and they may perform them when they are unfocused or unaware.

Before pulling the hair, experts explain that a person with TTM may have feelings of anxiety, stress, or boredom. Removing the hair relieves the tension someone feels, creating a cycle of reinforced behavior.

Other studies suggest that TTM has closer links to Tourette syndrome than OCD.

Research indicates that TTM also falls under the classification of body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). These are certain behaviors that people perform and include hair pulling, lip chewing, and skin picking.

BFRBs function as coping mechanisms when someone is under stress. These may typically develop in childhood and adolescence and during significant life events.

Other studies suggest that BFRBs are often present with other disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Learn more about trichotillomania.

Hair twirling may damage the hair if a person does it repetitively or wraps the hair around their fingers tightly. Doing this may weaken the hair, resulting in breakage.

Additionally, excessive twirling or pulling of hair could result in hair loss or bald patches.

A person’s doctor can help them find ways to manage the side effects of hair twirling and address the underlying cause.

If hair twirling happens when someone is bored, becoming aware of the habit and engaging in something else that holds their attention may help prevent it. Keeping a diary of hair twirling can also help a person identify any triggers that may cause them to engage in this behavior.

People can address hair twirling due to nervousness or anxiety through taking therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Additionally, styling the hair so that it is too short to twirl may also be something that someone wishes to consider.

If someone thinks their hair twirling is due to anxiety or stress, they can contact a doctor for advice on how to address this. A doctor may also diagnose an underlying anxiety disorder.

If hair twirling or hair pulling is causing damage to the hair or hair loss, a doctor can also recommend treatments.

Here are some frequently asked questions about hair twirling.

Does playing with your hair damage it?

Playing with hair occasionally may have no harmful effects, but repetitive hair twirling and pulling could damage the hair or cause hair loss.

Why do I keep twisting and pulling my hair?

Twisting or pulling hair can be due to boredom or an anxiety disorder. A doctor can help a person identify the cause of their hair twisting and pulling.

Occasionally twirling hair can be a harmless activity that people do when they are bored. However, it can also be a sign of anxiety or stress. It may be the result of conditions such as trichotillomania.

Hair twirling can cause adverse effects if it develops into pulling the hair out. Additionally, twirling hair may weaken the hair, causing it to break or tangle.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor for advice if they have concerns about hair twirling or damage to their hair.