Page last updated at 23:35 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 00:35 UK

Pill for hair-pulling compulsion

Trichotillomania
Sufferers feel impelled to pull out their hair and eyelashes

A simple supplement could help treat people with an impulse disorder that manifests in hair-tearing, say experts.

Trichotillomania suffers are blighted by uncontrollable urges to pluck the hair of the scalp and even eyebrows and lashes, often to the point of baldness.

Although seen as a behavioural and psychological problem, scientists are hopeful that the problem could be solved with an amino acid pill.

Archives of General Psychiatry reports promising early trial findings.

A group of 50 people with trichotillomania were asked to take part in a 12-week trial of the pill containing the amino acid N-acetylcysteine.

N-acetylcysteine could be an effective treatment option for people with trichotillomania
The study authors

The same supplement has shown promise for treating people with compulsive disorders and is thought to work on the glutamate system, the largest nerve signal transmission system in the human brain.

Indeed, some studies suggest that abnormalities in the natural brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine may pla