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What does hair twirling mean?

Help break the habit.

Like many parents, at Thumbsie® we have noticed that there is a tendency for children who thumb suck to also twirl their hair. This may seem like an innocent habit, but in some cases, it can grow into an obsession which is difficult to stop.

So, what is hair twirling? Why does it happen? And why is it often linked to thumb sucking?

Hair twirling

Firstly, hair twirling should not be confused with hair pulling: the tendency to pull at hair and even remove it from the scalp, some children even pull out their eyelashes. This condition, known as trichotillomania, can be very serious. If you have concerns regarding your child and hair pulling, then seek advice from your GP.

Fortunately, hair twirling is less serious, though can still cause worry. For a child, the act of coiling hair around a finger and pulling it in a circle (twirling) is fairly common.

Twirling is considered part of a group of habits known as fidgets – and that, of course, includes thumb sucking!

In a similar way to thumb sucking, a child may twirl their hair to self-soothe, to calm anxiety, to deal with boredom or to wind down before sleep. Both habits usually start from the same place: a feeling of anxiety or boredom.

While it can be a harmless habit, if hair twirling continues for a long time and happens frequently, it can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It may also lead to hair breakage and weak strands.

Are there other similar habits?

Of course. We all know that children can be fidgety.

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Habits such as thumb sucking and hair twirling can be comforting for children. It is important to remember that having these habits is not a bad thing in itself. Concern arises only if it takes place frequently and gets in the way of everyday life. Other habits or fidgets include biting nails, picking your nose and chewing items like pencils or clothes. Some of these behaviours can, of course, be learned behaviours, so make sure your child is not copying it from you!

How can hair twirling be stopped?

Some positive steps can be taken to stop hair twirling. One option is to focus on high-energy activities such as running or cycling to unleash anxious feelings.

You can also find a replacement object to fill a child’s hands – for example, a Thumbsie®. Other possible replacements include a soft blanket or a toy animal. Crucially, by focusing on something else in their hands, your child will avid long-term damage to their hair.

Where your child is both hair twirling and thumb sucking, there is no doubt that a Thumbsie® is the answer. A Thumbsie® will help your child stop thumb sucking as it fits like a glove and prevents them from indulging the sucking habit. It can be worn at all times of the day – for school and play – and best of all, Thumbsies® come in a range of cool and fun designs. There’s something for everyone!

You can read more about hair twirling in our dedicated section here


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