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A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Clomipramine in Trichotillomania

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(1):47-50

Background: The major treatments reported to be effective in the treatment of trichotillomania are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with habit reversal and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as clomipramine. However, the 2 treatments have not been previously compared with each other. This study examines the efficacy of CBT and clomipramine compared with placebo in the treatment of trichotillomania.

Method: Twenty-three patients with trichotillomania as determined by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R entered and 16 completed a 9-week, placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel-treatment study of CBT and clomipramine. Efficacy was evaluated by the Trichotillomania Severity Scale, the Trichotillomania Impairment Scale, and the Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement scale, which were conducted by an independent assessor blinded to the treatment condition.

Results: CBT had a dramatic effect in reducing symptoms of trichotillomania and was significantly more effective than clomipramine (p = .016) or placebo (p = .026). Clomipramine resulted in symptom reduction greater than that with placebo, but the difference fell short of statistical significance. Placebo response was minimal.

Conclusion: Clinicians should be aware of the potential treatments available for trichotillomania. A larger and more definitive study comparing CBT and a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor is indicated.