The goal of the proposed research is to further refine and evaluate an inconspicuous, awareness- enhancement and monitoring device (AEMD) which will assist the treatment of trichotillomania (TTM). TTM is associated with significant impairments in social functioning and often has a profound negative impact on self- esteem and well being. Conservative estimates suggest that 0.6% percent of the US population, or about 1.8 million people, meet full diagnostic criteria for TTM and approximately 7.5 million US residents have significant hair pulling problems. Of those treated, 60% to 70% are wholly or partially refractory to standard behavioral and pharmacological treatments and could therefore potentially benefit from this device. Best practice treatment for TTM involves a form of behavioral therapy known as habit reversal therapy (HRT). HRT requires persons with TTM to be aware of their hair pulling behaviors, yet the majority of persons with TTM pull most of their hair outside of their awareness. HRT also requires TTM sufferers to record the frequency and duration of their hair pulling behaviors yet it is impossible for a person to monitor behaviors that they are unaware of. Our Phase I efforts have produced a prototype device (AEMD) that solves these two problems. The prototype AEMD signals the TTM sufferer if their hand approaches their hair, thereby bringing pulling-related behavior into awareness. The prototype AEMD also logs the time, date, duration, and user classification of hair pulling related events. Our published pilot study and subsequent investigations establish that the prototype AEMD successfully alerts TTM sufferers to pulling-related behaviors and monitors TTM-related behavior in a laboratory setting. With respect to technological innovation, this project has the potential to develop the first available miniaturized, wearable, patient interactive, real-time data collecting and proximity-sensing device that both alerts sufferers to the presence of mental illness symptoms as they occur and keeps track of the frequency and intensity of the problem. The patented technologies developed for the AEMD have the potential to be of great value for a range of other health/mental health conditions or industrial applications. Our overall Phase II aim is to further refine the AEMD and to evaluate its acceptance and utility when used in an open trial course of professionally-led habit reversal therapy. It is hypothesized that the AEMD will be enthusiastically accepted by TTM sufferers and their clinicians and that it will perform as designed during the clinical trial. The Phase II AEMD will include a bracelet(s)/watch to be worn on each wrist, another element to be placed at the rear base of the neck, and a pager-like alert device to be worn at the belt-line or in a pocket. The AEMD, if found to be useful and effective, has the potential to significantly reduce the symptoms of TTM and its associated functional impairments. The AEMD also has great potential to improve assessment and monitoring of TTM behaviors which could be invaluable to clinicians planning treatment and to researchers evaluating the efficacy of various treatment strategies.

Public Health Relevance

This Phase II project involves continued design, development and evaluation of a device that aids in the treatment of trichotillomania. The device enhanced awareness of pulling behavior and monitors this disabling condition.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grants - Phase II (R42)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-T (10))
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Grabb, Margaret C
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Hammzoco Technologies
Ann Arbor
United States
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Himle, Joseph A; Taylor, Robert Joseph; Chatters, Linda M (2012) Religious involvement and obsessive compulsive disorder among African Americans and Black Caribbeans. J Anxiety Disord 26:502-10