For people suffering from trichotillomania — a psychological disorder that drives people to compulsively pick out their hair —nearly 30% will actually eat their hair. This is what trichophagia is — an impulse control disorder secondary to compulsive hair picking.
Since the hair in not digestible, it collects in a ball in the intestines and stomach, potentially causing indigestion and other negative side affects. In some extreme cases (roughly 1% of all Trichophagia cases) surgical intervention is required to remove the trichobezoar (a fancy word for “hairball”).
Especially dangerous is the formation — in the upper intestines — of a tail from the main body of the hairball. This extremely rare, but life-threatening case is called “Rapunzel’s Syndrome”. The analogy is to Rapunzel’s long hair, as well as to the moral of the story — that the young Rapunzel was able to escape her predicament with herown hair, metaphorically speaking. Something similar could be said of those who engage in compulsive hair eating — seeking emotional wholeness, or distraction from their problems, through the ritual of trichophagia.