On a lazy summer afternoon I was sitting on the couch and my mom, walking up to the kitchen and looking back at me, noticed the bald spot on the back of my scalp. I was twelve and developed Trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania (trick-o-til-o-MAY-nee-ah) or “Trich” is a common obsessive-compulsive disorder where a person will have the urge to pull out their hair, usually due to stress or depression.
So I turned to pulling my hair. I would find a strand that seemed to catch on a nerve or feel slightly tighter than the others, and to feel that same tension and release, I would pull it right out. I didn’t know that it had become such a routine habit for me until my mom noticed the back of my head was getting bald.
Recurrent pulling out of one’s hair, resulting in hair loss.
Repeated attempts to decrease or stop hair pulling.
Needless to say it was embarrassing; I didn’t know my compulsion had become visible and it wasn’t until about a year later that I actually admitted to my mom that I had pulled my hair on purpose. She was under the impression my hair was falling out due to poor nutrition. As shameful as it was for my mom to see what I was doing to myself, it was a wakeup call and I quit pulling my hair out cold turkey. For a few years at least.
In children, both boys and girls are equally affected. In adults, the disorder is more common in women than men.
“Trich” diagnoses are put into two different categories: focused and automatic, which is exactly how it sounds. Focused hair pulling occurs when someone is stressed and they consciously want that release, whereas automatic hair pulling happens almost mindlessly, but the release is still pursued.
I became aware of when I was doing it; when I was stressed, or when I was doing homework or simply sitting on the couch watching TV. So I was doing it both focused and automatically.
Research has been unable to pin down specific treatments that work for everyone, but there are different techniques to try.
I’ve used the snapping rubber band trick (where you pull a rubber band around your wrist and snap it against your skin) which has worked briefly for me. There are also medications to take to combat the anxiety that may incite the pulling, but that is an approach that worries me a bit. I’d be too afraid of side-effects or feeling cloudy.
If you happen to be a “Trichster” like me, know that you aren’t alone. Believe me, I know it’s frustrating and annoying and embarrassing, but it can be remedied. Sometimes just talking about it with a therapist or even a trusted friend can help quite a bit. Think of it as an accountability check; it’s tougher to pull when you have someone that will keep an eye on you!
Join a support group either online or in person, talk it out, get a rubber band, but most importantly, don’t let it affect your life. You are stronger than Trich. Remember that!
Below are a couple links that talk more about Trichotillomania.
Stay strong, and stay active!