A survey of participants in two internet support groups for people with hair-pulling

BACKGROUND:A substantial number of patients suffering from psychological problems or psychiatric disorders have turned to internet support groups for help. This paper reports on the perceived effectiveness of trichotillomania (TTM) internet support groups for people suffering from hair-pulling. METHODS: A questionnaire was sent via e-mail to all subscribers of two mailing lists devoted to TTM, each of which takes a somewhat different approach to the condition. The questionnaire addressed the possible benefits and problems associated with belonging to a TTM virtual support group. RESULTS: Subscribers had similar demographic features as clinical samples of trichotillomania patients. Subscribers to both internet lists found them helpful in terms of feeling supported and in obtaining information. The different approaches to TTM on the two lists were associated with differences in treatments attempted by participants. CONCLUSION: Internet support groups can potentially contribute to increasing awareness about and knowledge of psychiatric disorders such as TTM, as well as to their management. Nevertheless, additional effort is required to ensure that subscribers are able to make informed, evidence-based decisions.