For many people, hair twirling is less an addiction than an annoying habit. For example, some people have the habit of tapping their feet as they wait in line or shaking one of their legs when they are seated. Sometimes people twirl their hair in response to stress or anxiety; in other cases, hair twirling may be a symptom of a compulsive disorder. Often though, habits such as hair twirling are unconscious, which means the person may not even realize she’s twirling her hair. In many cases, hair twirling is a habit that begins in childhood. Many people grow out of it, but some continue the behavior well into adulthood.
Some people twirl their hair because it helps them to feel more relaxed. It’s essentially a pacifying habit that is similar to sucking one’s thumb or nail biting. It may help to produce a calm feeling. For example, some people may use hair twirling as a self-soothing measure during times of stress or nervousness. In fact, they may engage in this act without even noticing that they are feeling stressed. Others, however, may seem to twirl their hair just about all the time.
Usually, twirling hair is not a major concern. If it interferes with a person’s daily activities, however, she may decide to seek help with letting go of this habit. Often, a person may decide to seek help with hair twirling because of the effect it may have on others. For example, a person who seems to be addicted to hair twirling may notice that her loved ones feel concerned or even irritated when continually faced with her habit.
Hair twirling may also make others view a person as less competent. For example, employers and business associates may view a hair twirler as incompetent, flaky, or even coy. In some cases, this habit may even stimulate unwanted romantic advances, as members of the opposite sex may think the hair twirler is being flirtatious rather than twirling her hair out of habit.
Sometimes hair twirling is a sign of, or related to, a condition called trichotillomania. This is a disorder in which a person exhibits compulsive behavior such as hair pulling, which may result in actually pulling out one’s hair, or nail biting and skin picking. While these acts may occur when a person has an innocuous habit, when these actions are severe or constant, they may be a sign of a serious problem. This condition often begins around adolescence and may be associated with serious internal conflicts or past or current abuse.