Trichotillomania or more recently renamed Trichotillosis (also known as trich) is a hair pulling disorder. It is a condition where someone has the urge to pull their hair. This can also effect the eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and genital area. A person can be affected at any age but is more common in younger people and can affect both men and women.
It can be a rather complex condition and I feel it is not very often talked about by professionals because it is not very easy to treat.
It effects around 1 in 30 people and there needs to be a lot more awareness and support around it.
Although I say people with this condition have the urge to pull their own hair, this is not strictly true of everybody that suffers with it. Some do it for different reasons, some do it out of habit and others are completely unaware that they do it at all.
Some will pull their hair due to boredom, it gives them a sense of relief, they like the feel of it, it calms them down or it gives them a sense of control.
It may not be any of these reasons, each individual will be different.
People who have this condition will tend to pull strands of hair out one by one, when they are in a subconscious state either while falling asleep, sitting watching television, driving the car or sitting doing work.
Why do people do this?
This again is not a straight forward question to answer but usually it is triggered by some kind of stress or anxiety, OCD, it can be habit, trauma, it can be a type of self harm but very often the people suffering with it, do not know why they do it.
How to treat it
This is very complex and there is no one size fits all when it comes to treating trichotillosis. Some techniques work for some but not for others. GP's tend to start by sending the patient for a course of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) this is to try and reverse the habit.
Other strategies or techniques are; keeping a diary and making a notes of times, days and where you are when you pull your hair. For example, a person might find sitting in the lounge is where they pull on most occasions. By starting to keep a record of this you can start to track to see if a pattern occurs or if there is a certain trigger that sets off the pulling.
I think the first stage is to be aware of the condition and that you are suffering with it. Once you are aware you can start to put measures in place to help.
- Keeping records of triggers, where you pull, time of day etc
- Fiddle toys/ fiddle jewellery, these can be a great way to keep your hands busy.
- Finger cots or plasters, these can be put over the finger tips to stop you being able to feel the hairs and getting the sensation of pulling them.
- Wearing hats, some people wear hats to provide a bit of a barrier to stop them easily getting to their hair.
- Exercise, this can be a great way to keep you busy and take your mind off it, it also keeps you fit too!
- Hair Replacement Systems, these can be used to disguise areas of hair that have been pulled out but also are a barrier to prevent you being able tot pull out any more hair.
Everyone will have their own way of dealing with it and they will find certain techniques that help them.
There are trichotillomania support groups out there on social media and this is a great way to learn from other peoples experiences and they may be able to offer different ideas to try.
Tell someone what you are going through; a family member, a friend, loved one, a professional; whoever you feel comfortable with. Tell them how you feel, it may make you feel more confident to do something about it and make positive changes. Have regular updates or check ins with them so that you can track your progress.
Give yourself incentives, if you reach your goal of not pulling all month; go for that dinner or buy that item of clothing that you wanted, celebrate your wins.
If you have a bad day and you found that you have pulled your hair for whatever reason, try not to dwell on it, don't beat yourself up. Move on and start again the next day.
Don't let a bad day turn into a bad week.
What if someone i know is suffering with trichotillomania?
Don't tell them to, just stop. Its not that easy and trust me if they could, they would!
Just listen to them and how they are feeling. There may be things that they might suggest that would be helpful to them or event things that they don't find very helpful.
If you are suffering yourself, don't be embarrassed to talk to someone, you will be surprised at how much better you feel when you talk to someone.
Believe in yourself, you can do this!